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VOL. 123 | NO. 26 | Thursday, February 7, 2008

24 Killed in Storms Across Tennessee

By ANTONIO GONZALEZ | Associated Press Writer

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LAFAYETTE, Tenn. (AP) - Rescue workers in rural areas began searching door to door Wednesday morning for more victims of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that killed at least 24 people statewide.

Ten deaths were reported in Macon County, along the Kentucky border about 50 miles northeast of Nashville, said Randy Harris, a spokesman for the Tennessee National Guard and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

The county is near where a spectacular explosion at a natural gas pumping station shot flames 400 feet in the air Tuesday night and cast an eerie glow for miles. No one was working at the plant at the time and there were no fatalities or injuries connected to the explosion, said Brent Archer, a spokesman for Houston-based Nisource Gas Transmission.

Macon County emergency director Keith Scruggs confirmed at least eight deaths from storm damage alone.

"(A suspected tornado) cut Macon County in two," Scruggs said. "I've been working 34 years and I've never seen anything like this.

"Roads are blocked. It's massive. We can't tell the extent of the damage yet. They have search teams going out now to check subdivision developments, housing and more rural areas."

Residents across the county began sifting through debris and searching for neighbors and family, despite having no power Tuesday night. As the sun rose Wednesday morning, destroyed roads strewn with debris, downed trees and power lines and destroyed homes could be seen clearly.

In a few parts of the mostly rural county, no authorities could be found.

Ray Story said his 70-year-old brother, Bill Clark, died after the storms leveled his nearby mobile home.

Clark died in the back of a pickup truck as Story and his wife tried rushing him to the hospital, Story said.

"He never had a chance," Nova Story said. "I looked him right in the eye and he died right there in front of me."

"He knew he was going to die when we put him in the pickup truck," Ray said.

State emergency officials said at least 150 people were injured in the storms that struck first in Memphis on Tuesday afternoon and swept northeast along Interstate 40 to Nashville.

Sumner County Sheriff Bob Barker confirmed Wednesday morning that five people have died in the county. He said emergency officials are still searching for more possible fatalities.

Two people died in a home near Jackson. Three people were killed when a roof collapsed at the DSC Logistics warehouse in Memphis.

A man was killed in his car in Fayette County and two others died in Hardin County east of Memphis during the wave of storms that began Tuesday.

Barker said authorities found the body of a woman in a ditch along U.S. 25, and her 11-month-old son was found alive nearby. The baby did not have life-threatening injuries and was taken to Sumner Regional Medical Center.

In Jackson, Union University was hard hit and at least eight people were trapped in a damaged dorm until rescuers could dig them out.

Tim Ellsworth, the school's news director, said about 50 students went to the hospital and nine had injuries that were classified as serious.

A string of tornadoes ravaged several West and Middle Tennessee counties in April 2006, killing 36 people.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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