Severe weather batters 11 states overnight, more coming

Reuters News
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Posted: May 26, 2011 11:53 AM
Severe weather batters 11 states overnight, more coming

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Communities across the middle of the country cleaned up on Thursday from more tornadoes, high winds and hail after another stormy night, and the wave of damaging weather was heading east.

In Joplin, Missouri, where a massive tornado on Sunday devastated the city of 50,000, frustration was growing that people were still unaccounted for and some bodies had not been identified.

At least 125 died in the Joplin storm and more than 900 were injured at last count. Search crews were still looking for victims in the miles of rubble left by the tornado, which packed winds of 200 miles an hour.

The storms in the nation's midsection overnight did not result in any new fatalities, according to emergency officials. But the National Weather Service map of severe weather counted at least 81 reports of tornadoes and severe weather over the last 24 hours across at least 11 states.

An apparent tornado tore through the city of Smithville, Tenn. early Thursday, and two other tornadoes hit the city of Bedford, Indiana Wednesday night, according to local officials. No deaths or serious injuries were reported.

"It was pretty devastating," said Valerie Luchauer, emergency management director in Bedford. Four homes and one business were destroyed and ten other homes were damaged.

Severe thunderstorms are possible Friday across the country with damaging wind gusts, hail, and isolated tornadoes. The forecast of possible severe thunderstorms stretches from southeast Montana in the West to the Florida Panhandle in the south and then east to northern Vermont, according to weather.com.

In Smithville, a city about 70 miles southeast of Nashville. a market and a gas station were blown away, and a restaurant was severely damaged, according to Mayor Taft Hendrixson. He said the storm hit at about 1 a.m. local time and emergency officials have been going door-to-door to check on people, especially the elderly.

"But we were lucky," Hendrixson said. "It could have been a whole lot worse if it had stayed on the ground longer."

One Tennessee emergency services worker was injured by a lightning strike. The National Weather Service meteorologist Brittney Whitehead in Nashville also reported tree and power lines down and many houses damaged across the state.

In Illinois, the state's Emergency Management Agency received reports of tornadoes overnight, but was not aware of anything really severe, according to spokeswoman Patti Thompson.

In Louisiana, a tornado was reported by law enforcement near Farmersville near the Arkansas line Wednesday night. A tornado touched down in late afternoon in Oil Trough, a small town in eastern Arkansas, causing moderate damage to some homes but no reported injuries, according to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.

There also were reports of downed trees and power lines in northwest Mississippi and Louisiana, but no reports of injuries, local officials said.

This year has seen an unusually high number of tornadoes, with 1,168 as of May 22, compared to an average of about 671 by this time, according to Joshua Wurman, president of the Center for Severe Weather Research in Boulder, Colorado.

The U.S. is on pace to break the record for deaths from tornadoes this season, the National Weather Service has said.

(Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Reporting by Tim Ghianni, Suzi Parker, Susan Guyett, Colleen Jenkins, Kathy Finn and Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Greg McCune)