- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

MURFREESBORO, TENN. (AP) - A mother and her infant daughter were apparently trying to flee the savage storm that claimed their lives and injured dozens of others Friday in central Tennessee, a rescue worker said.

The bodies of Kori Bryant, in her mid-20s, and 9-week-old Olivia Bryant were found near their driveway, among gnarled trees and homes ripped right off their foundations, evidence of the tornado that killed them and caused extensive damage to the area.

Reports of destruction were widespread across the region Friday, with funnel clouds spotted in Kentucky and Alabama and devastating winds, huge hail and heavy rain reported in several states. The damage was worst in Rutherford County, Tenn., some 30 miles northeast of Nashville.

At least 41 people were injured there, four of them critically. In Murfreesboro, a city of about 100,500, at least three dozen homes were destroyed. Roofs were peeled from at least a dozen homes, and a bulldozer cleared limbs and other debris from streets. Rescue crews emblazoned a “C” on homes as they checked, moving through neighborhoods to search for anyone trapped in rubble.

Kori Bryant and her baby apparently were trying to get in a car _ both were found outside, and the infant was in a car seat, rescue official Randy White said.

Andrew Piro, 23, who was on his way to work when the tornado struck, told the Knoxville News-Sentinel he came upon a man who said his brother’s wife and child were missing.

“Outside under the rubble, we found the wife,” Piro said. “She was right beside the driveway, about 20 feet away from the house. She was under a bunch of wood, I guess part of the roof. We found the baby strapped into a car seat, about another 20 feet away under a tree. It broke my heart.”

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,” 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. All were uninjured.

Gov. Phil Bredesen, Deputy Gov. John Morgan, U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., and other officials are scheduled to tour the affected areas Saturday in Rutherford County.

In southwestern Kentucky near Mannington, State Trooper Stu Recke said one person suffered a broken hip and leg while the other suffered a broken ankle. Both were taken to a hospital for treatment, Recke said. The tornado there ripped homes from their foundations.

Several possible tornadoes were reported in north Georgia as heavy rain, hail and winds downed trees and power lines. Flights were delayed for up to 90 minutes at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as dark gray clouds swirled in from the west.

On Thursday night, a black funnel cloud packing winds of at least 136 mph descended on the western Arkansas hamlet of Mena, killing at least three, injuring 30 and destroying or damaging 600 homes.

Polk County, Ark., Sheriff Mike Oglesby said search-and-rescue teams had combed through the city’s downtown Friday and a neighborhood just west that sustained the brunt of the storm without finding any other victims. The sheriff said he had no reports of anyone else missing in the city of 5,700 in the Ouachita Mountains.

___

Associated Press writers Kristin M. Hall in Murfreesboro and Lucas L. Johnson II in Mannington, Ky., contributed to this report.

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