Storms kill at least 23 in central US
NASHVILLE, Tenn., April 3 (Reuters) Tornadoes and violent spring thunderstorms raked sections of the central United States yesterday killing at least 23 people.
Northwestern Tennessee was the hardest hit area, with 19 confirmed deaths in two counties, according to Donnie Smith, an official with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.
He said the death toll was likely to rise. Police were making aerial surveys by helicopter to search for other damage.
Power was out in a large area ''and this will become a significant problem'' as rescue efforts continue, he said. There were dozens of injuries, and 17 people were in critical condition.
''Most of those who were killed died in their homes,'' Smith said, when the storms struck after nightfall last evening.
Hundreds of home and businesses were destroyed or damaged in or around the towns of Bradford and Dyersburg, he added.
He said 11 of the dead were in Dyer County and eight in Gibson County.
Missouri officials reported three deaths in the eastern part of that state, including one man killed when a tree fell on him in a state park. There was one death in southern Illinois when high winds destroyed a clothing store.
The federal Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma said it had reports of 63 tornadoes, though the number might actually be less when on-the-ground teams assess whether they actually were twisters.
Most of the tornado reports were in Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa and Illinois, the center said.
Witnesses in Dyersburg said there were at least two storms, possibly tornadoes, which hit about 90 minutes apart as many residents attended last evening's worship services.
A cold front advancing from the west and clashing with moist warm air from the south caused storms across the central part of the country on Sunday, triggering numerous tornado and severe storm warnings.
REUTERS TM BS2311