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Monday, 11 November, 2002, 22:45 GMT
Tornadoes smash through eastern US
A string of devastating tornadoes has destroyed hundreds of homes in a destructive rampage across the US from the Canadian border to the Deep South.
More than 30 people are now known to have died in several eastern states and emergency workers are warning that the death toll is almost certain to rise.
Dozens of people are missing in Ohio, Tennessee and Alabama, hundreds are injured and tens of thousands of homes are without power.
Unseasonably high temperatures followed by a cold front generated the conditions for the tornadoes which came in several violent waves.
One of the worst-hit communities was Mossy Grove in Tennessee where seven people died when a tornado wrecked everything on the ground in a swath five to six miles (6 to 10 kilometres) long.
One of the victims was a four-month-old boy, killed in an area where 20 homes were flattened.
More than 40 people were missing in Mossy Grove, with emergency crews working through the night having to rely on ham radio operators for communication since phone lines were knocked out by the storm.
Ken Morgan, an officer from the nearby town of Oliver Springs, said: "It's mass destruction, death. Mossy Grove is destroyed."
Several people died as they became trapped in cars and homes, while others frantically tried to escape the churning storms.
In Ohio, a State Highway Patrol trooper, Jon Cross, said he saw a storm approach as he was heading to work.
"I heard a roar. I saw a black wall," he said.
"I could see everything spinning. It was coming right at me."
The storms cut a 100-mile (160-km) swath through northwest Ohio farmland, doing serious damage to the town of Van Wert.
Deaths have been reported in Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Mississippi.
You sent us your experiences of the tornadoes.
We are located in Northeast Ohio, the unusual thing about this line of thunderstorms that spawned the latest tornadoes is that they don't usually occur in November. This type of weather occurs in the spring. We have experienced more violent weather than I can count, but I can only account for 4 tornadoes that formed from the storms. We trust the warning system in place in the community. The siren is sounded at the first hint of a storm that may produce a tornado. The Sheriff depatment interrups tv and radio to update the location of the spotted funnel clouds. Being scared does no benefit to you or your family. In this area we are prepared and react by just getting out of the way of the storm, let it do its damage and rebuild.
I am a storm chaser and severe weather photographer. I chase alongside my boyfriend Gene Rhoden in the midwestern United States every storm season - usually from April to June every year. It is very disheartening that warning systems are either still not up to scratch with giving out the warning soon enough for people to take adequate cover, or that the public do not heed the warnings in the first place. These storms kill - it is as simple as that.
But they are also beautiful, and I have had close-up experiences of 6 tornadoes - all spawned from the same Supercell storm - on June 23rd this year. Fortunately this storm was in a very rural area, and there were no casualties - but 6 tornadoes in succession is an awesome and very humbling thing to experience.
I grew up in Southwest Missouri which is right in the middle of "tornado alley." I can still remember the tornado drills we had in school. A couple times a year we would practice going into the hallway and getting in the "duck and cover" position. I also remember when the county would test the storm sirens that would go off when a tornado touches down. They sound like air-raid sirens or something. The most distinct detail I remember is how the sky turns green right before a tornado comes. That was so creepy. Now that I'm on the West coast, I have earthquakes to contend with. I'm not sure which is worse!
I've been in or near about half a dozen tornadoes, two of them what I would call "serious." You can try to build tornado-safe buildings, but the fact of the matter is that nothing can withstand those twisters that cause the most damage. Unless you've been near one, you have no idea the power involved: it would simply be futile to spend the time, energy, and money to try to create buildings that can withstand killer tornadoes. In the US, you're talking about the Great Plains, the midwest, and in some measure the east coast. It just isn't feasible. You may as well try to find a way to change the weather itself.
Driving across the flat plains of Indiana, I was caught by a tornado that seemingly came from no where. Even though it was a relatively small funnel cloud, it was still terrifying and devastating to the landscape. It seems strange to me that building laws in the States still allow for pre-fab housing in areas where there is a definable tornado "season." The power of these storms should never be underestimated.
To Mel Beatty in the UK:
The Reverend James C. Lovette-Black, USA
Tornadoes are a fact of life in the South (Tennessee, USA). This past weekend's outbreak was especially frightening because the storms erupted so suddenly and kept coming. I've been through several tornadoes, including 2 close calls. After incidents like yesterday's, I feel very grateful to the meteorologists who keep us informed as these storms approach.
We weren't too worried at first. The weather channel kept saying that we were going to get severe storms but they usually break up in western Ohio before they get to our county. I was washing the dishes when the first storm hit. My sister was in her room studying. I had a cd player on so I didn't hear much at first. Then the wind started getting so loud that I turned the music off. I went around the house shutting all the doors to the bedrooms so that the dogs would be in the living room should I need to find them in a hurry. It turned out to be a good decision. About ten minutes later I heard this low continuous rumble accompanied by an unbelievable amount of lightning and hail. My sister ran out of her room, we looked at each other, grabbed the two dogs, and went straight for the basement. One of the dogs started shaking a lot, almost like she was shivering. That scared me because I had always heard that animals can sense things before humans can. We had a battery operated radio with us so we listened to all the storm reports while we were down there. They never issued a tornado warning for our county but they issued one for Richland and Morrow counties, the two counties above us. The "tornado" turned out to be a microburst but still not something I care to experience again. My heart goes out to all those who really were hit by the tornado's especially those who lost family, friends, or homes in this outbreak. God bless.
William A. Bell, Canada
Although I live in Atlanta, Georgia, which has not been really damaged by the storm, I experienced some of its effects. I was walking home this night just before the storm began. There was no thunder heard at first but the sky was so frequently and brightly illuminated by the lightning that I could not believe it was a natural phenomenon: I've never seen such a bright lightning in my life. I thought it was a concert with extremely powerful light projectors going on nearby. Then, when I got home, the rain pelted down suddenly and thunder threatened to shatter window panes; the storm was raging all the night.
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