Death Toll At 22 From Tornado Near Evansville - News, Weather & Sports

Death Toll At 22 From Tornado Near Evansville

Eastbrook Tailer Park - Courtesy 14WFIE Eastbrook Tailer Park - Courtesy 14WFIE

(EVANSVILLE, Ind.) -- A tornado cut a swath through a mobile home park and smashed homes early Sunday in southwest Indiana, killing at least 22 people, injuring about 200 and knocking out power to thousands, officials said.

The tornado touched down near Henderson, Ky., north of the Ohio River and then jumped into Indiana about 2:15 a.m. CST, striking the Eastbrook Mobile Home Park on Evansville's southeast side.

Eric Williams of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department said at least 17 people were killed in the mobile home park and that rescuers continued to search for victims and survivors.

Five others were killed in adjoining Warrick County, east of Evansville, where the tornado struck the Ohio River city of Newburgh. The victims included a woman who was eight months pregnant, her husband and a child in their home in the rural town of DeGonia Springs, said Warrick County Sheriff Marvin Heilman.

"I cannot describe how bad the damage is. I've been in this business 14 years and I've seen other disasters, but the magnitude here -- I've never seen anything like this," said Greg Seibert, assistant fire chief in Warrick County's Ohio Township volunteer department.

Indiana homeland security spokeswoman Pam Bright said it was the deadliest tornado in Indiana since April 3, 1974, when an outbreak of several tornadoes killed 47 people and destroyed 2,069 homes.

Mike Roeder, a spokesman for utility company Vectren, said 13,000 homes were without power Sunday, mostly in Warrick County. He said the storm had "crippled" towers that carry high-voltage lines that feed the Boonville, Ind., area, and he wasn't sure when power would be restored.

Ryan Presley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., said it appears a single, intense tornado touched down near Smith Mills, Ky., in northwestern Kentucky and then cut a 15- to 20-mile swath through Indiana's Vanderburgh and Warrick counties.

Presley said the tornado appears to have been an F3 on the Fujita scale, with winds ranging from 158 mph to 206 mph, and may have been even stronger. A team from the weather service's Paducah office was surveying damage to get a clearer picture of the storm's intensity and path.

About 100 homes at the Eastbrook Mobile Home Park were destroyed and 125 others were damaged, Bright said. The park had about 320 occupied homes.

Dale Naylor, assistant chief of Knight Township Volunteer Fire Department, said rescuers Sunday afternoon found a young child who had been in under debris in a ditch near the park since about 2 a.m. The child, believed to be about 8 years old, was talking with rescuers before being taken to a local hospital.

"We're ecstatic," he said. "We've been dealing with death all day."

Cheryl Musgrave, president of the county's board of commissioners, said she had watched television coverage of the disaster before going to the scene and thought she was prepared.

But what she saw, she said, nearly stopped her heart.

"I've never seen anything like this, and I hope I never see it again," she said.

National Guard units were being mobilized to help with the search and recovery efforts, said Jane Jankowski, spokeswoman for Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Daniels toured the Vanderburgh and Warrick counties and described the destruction as "brutal" and "highly random."

"There's incredible devastation next to apparently unscathed properties," he said.

The tornado developed in a line of thunderstorms that rolled rapidly eastward across the Ohio Valley during the morning. The National Weather Service issued advisories in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana before the tornado struck.

Indiana officials said emergency sirens sounded twice, about 1:50 a.m. and about 2 a.m., but many in the mobile home park said they did not hear them.

Tim Martin, 42, said he and his parents were awakened by the wind, which picked up the mobile home and moved it halfway into the neighbor's yard, shattering glass and shaking the home.

They escaped unharmed, but he said they heard several neighbors calling for help. A neighboring mobile home was overturned, he said, and another appeared to have been obliterated.

"All I could see was debris," he said. "I thought it was a bad dream."

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