- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. | A tornado killed two people and injured at least 30 Friday in central Tennessee as a line of storms that killed three people a day earlier in western Arkansas swept into the South, emergency officials said.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Donnie Smith confirmed the deaths Friday in Murfreesboro, about 30 miles southeast of Nashville.

Dispatchers at the Rutherford County Emergency Management Agency said the area has been “heavily impacted” after several eyewitness reports of a tornado on the ground at about midday.

Elsewhere, a tornado touched down in southwestern Kentucky, injuring two people and destroying a mobile home. Large hail began falling in several North Carolina counties.

On Thursday night, a black funnel cloud descended on the western Arkansas hamlet of Mena, killing at least three, injuring 30 and destroying or damaging 600 homes.

“This one popped out of nowhere,” said Polk County, Ark., Sheriff Mike Oglesby.

Angie Boyd-Chambers, a spokeswoman for Middle Tennessee Medical Center, said Friday that two people were pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. She couldn’t provide their names or ages.

The hospital treated 35 people, but Mrs. Boyd-Chambers did not have details on how seriously they were hurt.

Joe Spencer, 23, a student at Middle Tennessee State University, said he had only moments to react but survived a direct hit on his house.

“I was going to open the door to see what was going on and I looked straight at a tornado,” Mr. Spencer said.

He yelled at his brother to take shelter in one of the home’s bathrooms and then ran to the other, jumping into the bathtub while holding his dog, Lloyd.

“The bathtub started shaking, and I just tried to grab ahold to anything I could. I grabbed the nozzle and turned on the water,” Mr. Spencer said. Hours later, he was still wet up to his knees.

Mr. Spencer, his brother and dog were shaken but not injured. Outside, the storm’s power was apparent. The roof over the living room of the house was gone and the rest of the roof was caved in.

Friday afternoon, search teams fanned out across Murfreesboro, a city of about 100,500, looking for anyone trapped in homes. Clyde Atkinson, spokesman for the Murfreesboro Police Department, said he believes there were three to five touchdowns, mostly in the northern and western parts of the city.

A grocery store gathered customers into a cooler until the storm passed.

Roofs were ripped away from at least a dozen homes, and some trees were blown down. A bulldozer was clearing tree limbs and other debris from streets.

Several homes bore a spray-painted “c,” indicating emergency crews had checked them. Thousands of utility customers lost power.

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