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Picking Up After A Tornado's Fury

While working to help those hit hard by Sunday's deadly tornado, Chuck Brunette, left, and Ryan Hatfield recover valuables around a home in Newburgh, Ind., Monday, Nov. 7, 2005. (AP Photo/ Evansville Courier & Press, Jason Clark)
AP
Residents were being allowed back into their Indiana neighborhoods Tuesday morning where a tornado slashed through homes early Sunday morning and killed at least 22 people.

"The house just seemed like it exploded," said Donna Lutz of De Gonia Springs, Ind., just 20 miles from the Eastbrook Mobile Home Park in Evansville, which was obliterated in the storm.

At least 18 people died at the mobile home park, and four others were killed in neighboring Warrick County. Dozens remained hospitalized.

All 200 people on a list of those feared missing from the mobile home park had been accounted for by Monday night, Sheriff Brad Ellsworth said.

Authorities expected to finish draining a pond near the trailer park by Tuesday morning. Four bodies were found in the pond Sunday, and another was found Monday.

"My grandson had come out to check on us and he said 'Grandma, I found one of the people up there in the field with the fire department,'" Lutz told CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

It was the body of a 4-year-boy who died along with his father and pregnant mother.

"It should have took me. I'm an old man. They should have lived. They've got a life — had a life way ahead of them," said neighbor Casey Lockhart.

The tornado cut a path of devastation at least 20 miles long and about a quarter-mile wide when it struck about 2:30 in the morning.

"In an 11-minute period in the middle of the night, there is not a good place to go. You are just left up to fate at that point," said Ellsworth.

It was a gut-wrenching scene, reports CBS News correspondent Jim Krasula (audio): Tornado victims poking through debris, looking for anything that can be salvaged.

"I'm trying to take my kids some clothes and stuff like that. Everything that was in the kitchen is pretty much gone," said Melissa Walls of Newburgh, Ind. "Our garage is gone; we have no vehicles."

Walls had just seconds to grab her 14-month-old son from his crib just before it was crushed by a falling ceiling.

Experts say the tornado was unusually intense and fast. Pushed by a rapid shift in the jet stream, the twister raced along at 70 to 75 mph and stayed on the ground for about 35 minutes, said David Blanchard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Paducah, Kentucky.

"It was just booking along during the greatest punch of the jet stream. You just don't see speeds like that very often," Blanchard said.

Dan McCarthy, the warning coordinator at the federal government's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said most people wrongly think of tornadoes as a spring event.

He said the nation experiences a "second season" of tornadoes from mid-October through November, when weather conditions resemble those in the spring.

"That's what makes tornadoes so dangerous this time of the year — people just don't expect them," he said. "They expect them to happen in the spring and in the afternoon or evening, not at 2 in the morning in November."

Meanwhile, hundreds of survivors were wondering how they would recover without the homes they had made amid the Ohio River bottomlands.

State officials said nearly 600 homes were destroyed or sustained major damage. Gov. Mitch Daniels declared a state of emergency for the area as he asked the federal government for disaster assistance.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said it has sent teams to the area.