CBSN

'It Looks Like A War Zone'

Friends and family members remove furniture and other items from a home west of Paris, Tenn., Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005. The home was destroyed by a tornado Tuesday.
AP
Nearly three dozen tornadoes ripped through the Midwest, part of a huge line of thunderstorms that destroyed homes and killed at least two people.

One person died in Benton, Ky., when he was thrown from his mobile home, the trailer apparently landed on him, and then caught on fire, reports Ryan Tate of CBS affiliate KFVS-TV.

"There is not a lot left," said Lori King, public information officer for Marshall County Emergency Management Services. "The mobile home flipped off the foundation at least once but possibly several times. It caught fire shortly afterward."

A teenager was killed when her car went out of control on a flooded road and overturned east of Indianapolis, Hancock County Sheriff's Dept. Sgt. Bridget D. Foy said.

Meteorologists said a cold front moving rapidly east collided with warm, unstable air from the south on Tuesday to produce the thunderstorms that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, spawning funnel clouds and tornadoes in parts of Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee.

The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center had preliminary reports of at least 35 tornadoes in the five states, spokeswoman Peggy Stogsdill said Wednesday at the center in Norman, Okla.

"We heard a weird sound coming through, kind of a whistle," said Penny Leonard, 37, who sought shelter in the basement of a hospital in the western Kentucky town of Madisonville. "I thank God I'm safe."

Three people were reported in critical condition at the Regional Medical Center in Madisonville and several others were admitted due to storm injuries. The Hopkins County Emergency Management Agency estimates an F-3 tornado ripped a 3,000-foot-wide path through the area.

It was the third outbreak of twisters this month. One tornado on Nov. 6 killed 23 people in southern Indiana, and nine tornadoes struck Iowa on Saturday, killing one woman.

What made this outbreak different than the one in Evansville ten days ago is it struck when most were awake and could get the tornado warnings, the Weather Channel's Mike Seidel said on CBS News' The Early Show.

"The same front that brought the severe weather and tornadoes on Tuesday heads to the East Coast today producing severe weather. That's forecast for New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington," said Seidel.

At the colder northern end of the storm system, snow fell across parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday. At least three people were killed in crashes on slippery Minnesota roads on Tuesday, police said.

"It was a big loud train sound and glass and stuff just went flying," Benton homeowner Louise Brandon told KFVS. "I laid down by a recliner in the living room and that's when it took about half of my house, the garage, the car — everything."

"It looked really big. And then above St. Paul we actually saw two more starting to funnel and they look three times the size the one that was going through," Shelbyville, Tenn., resident Vickie Settles told CBS affiliate WKRC.

"It sounded like a train coming through. I thought the house was going to leave there. Blown all the windows out, everything," added Jimmy Caperton of Wayne County to CBS affiliate WHNT.

Roofs of homes were caved in, walls were blown out and entire buildings were blown off foundations in parts of Madisonville on Tuesday.

Along with tornadoes, thunderstorms in Indiana produced wind of more than 100 mph and as much as 2 inches of rain, causing scattered flooding, said meteorologist Jason Puma at the weather service in Indianapolis.

In Tennessee, even Henry County's emergency officials had to scramble for shelter when their office was struck by a tornado. They moved into an office in the courthouse in Paris, about 90 miles west of Nashville.

"Numerous homes there were damaged, some completely destroyed," Henry County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Faye Scott said. "It's major destruction."

Brenda Magee, who lives in Paris, was just arriving at work at a furniture factory when the storm system hit.

"They told us to get inside," she said. "We were there for about 10 minutes under tables, dust and everything swirling around. It was a big roar."

The Henry County Medical Center treated 13 people and admitted two with non-life-threatening injuries, said spokeswoman Sandra Sims.

In Tennessee's Montgomery County, four mobile homes, a camper and two houses were destroyed at Cunningham, just south of Clarksville.

"It looks like a war zone," said Ted Denny, spokesman for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department.