Tornado death toll climbs to at least 18 in IN, KY

JEFFERSON COUNTY, IN (WAVE) – Authorities confirmed that at least 18 people were killed by tornadoes that plowed across the southern portion Indiana and part of Kentucky Friday afternoon.

The State of Indiana Joint Information Center reported that three people were killed in Clark County, IN. Authorities in Jefferson County confirmed three fatalities in Chelsea, IN.  Washington County Sheriff Claude Combs said the storms killed four people in Pekin, where another four people were in critical condition.

In Kentucky, four people died of storm-related injuries in Menifee County in the eastern part of the state, and one fatality was reported in Kenton County in northern Kentucky, according to the Commonwealth Emergency Operations Center.

[SLIDESHOW: Henryville damage March 2]

Early reports indicated the heaviest damage was concentrated in Henryville and Marysville in Clark County and New Pekin.

Numerous sources reported that most of the town of Marysville was leveled.

Henryville Junior-Senior High School was destroyed. A teacher at the school told WAVE 3's radio partner, 84WHAS, that students were dismissed at 2:30 p.m. -- 20 minutes early --because of the threat of severe weather. The teacher said buses could not get everyone home before the tornado hit, so the remaining students were returned to the school. They were in the front office with principals when the tornado struck. The teacher reported no one at the school was injured.

Jefferson County Sheriff's Department dispatcher Shelly Jones said houses were missing near the unincorporated town of Chelsea, IN, about 30 miles north of Louisville.

Under the leadership of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS), the Indiana Operations Center has increased staffing and will remain activated 24 hours a day to monitor conditions and provide resource support to county emergency agencies in areas affected by the storms and tornado activity.

Numerous IDHS crews were dispatched to southern Indiana to assist local emergency management in coordinating  response efforts.

Indiana Task Force One, a federally directed emergency response team comprised of Hoosier first responders, was deploying to southern Indiana to assist with search and rescue efforts.

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