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Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 15:09 GMT
US towns start tornado clean-up
A house destroyed in Mossy Grove, Tennessee
It was the worst set of storms for three years
Communities across the eastern US have begun to sift through the wreckage of their homes as they mourn the 35 people killed by a string of violent storms.

Dozens of people are still listed as missing after more than 70 tornadoes and thunderstorms wreaked havoc in towns from the Great Lakes to the Deep South.

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Enlarge image
Rescue workers say they hope the missing are unhurt but simply unable to contact friends and relatives because phone and power lines have been severed.

The storms - which developed as a cold front moved in to areas where there had been unseasonably high temperatures - were the worst belt of weather to hit the area of the US known as "Tornado Alley" for more than three years.

Tennessee was the worst hit - 16 deaths were reported and the small town of Mossy Grove was said to have been destroyed.

I heard this low continuous rumble accompanied by an unbelievable amount of lightning and hail
Heidi S, Ohio

More than 200 people were injured, hundreds of homes damaged and tens of thousands of people left without power.

As the storms finally abated, battered residents were able to see the destruction left all around them.

Correspondents in Mossy Grove said clothes fluttered from tree limbs, power lines dangled from poles and cars lay crumpled after being tossed like toys.

Open in new window : US tornadoes
Click here to see pictures of the storms

A resident, Susan Henry, said: "Yesterday, we had a nice brick house and four vehicles - today, we don't own a toothbrush."

She sheltered with her husband and two children in the basement of a neighbour's home that collapsed around them.

Tennessee resident Cynthia Stowe outside her storm-hit home
Hundreds of homes were hit by the storms in Tennessee
Her daughter, Tabatha, said: "It was just deafening it was so loud.

"You could hear the wood pop in the house, and that was it. Then all you could hear was the screaming and praying."

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Officers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were expected in Mossy Grove and other affected areas to help to assess the damage.

In Alabama, Governor Don Siegelman has already called for help from the central government.

Ohio's Governor Bob Taft has declared a state of emergency in two counties where dozens of tornadoes flattened factories and farm houses in a 100-mile (160-kilometre) stretch.

Have you experienced the tornadoes? Or are you scared for your safety? Send us your experiences

Click here or scroll to the bottom of the page to send us your comments. A selection will be published below.

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.
(For more, see my website:
Karen E. Leszke, UK

The thunder was so loud that all the hotel walls vibrated.

Kate, UK
I was staying in a hotel in Warren, north-east Ohio when the storm warnings were first issued. I gathered with some other guests in the hotel lobby, watching the TV weather continuously for 3 hours. Fortunately we missed the worst of the storms, but we saw the lightning from our vantage point in the hotel and it was amazing, I have never seen so much lightening across a night sky. Even after the Tornado Warnings for the county had expired, the thunder was at times so loud that all the hotel walls vibrated.
Kate, UK

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!
RC, California, USA

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.
Kevin Fromer, Illinois, USA

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.
Mel Beatty, UK

To Mel Beatty in the UK:
A conventionally constructed home is not less likely be damaged by a tornado than a prefabricated one.
Mike, USA

Storm cellars provide some relief, but are not fully reliable.

Rev James Lovette-Black, USA
My mother's house was horribly damaged in Carbon Hill, Alabama. The 9 mile-road from her house to the nearest town was impassable because of fallen trees and enormous pieces of houses that blocked the road. Fortunately, they were not injured, but several people in the little town of Carbon Hill were killed. Having grown up with the terror of tornadoes, there is almost no way to describe the roaring sound, the altered sensations because of static electricity all around, the sudden drop in air pressure, etc., all combined to powerfully change the way that one feels. The response is a primal, get-the-hell-out-of-here instinct. Storm cellars (shelters) provide some relief, but are not fully reliable. So, people are left confronting one of the most powerful natural phenomena with their wits, terror, and the people around them.
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.
Jane, USA

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.
Heidi S, Ohio, USA

The safest place that you can be in a hotel is in the bathroom

William A Bell, Canada
I was in a Motel in Cedar Point OHIO USA some years ago. A tornado ripped through the area. It flattened such things as road sign and uprooted trees. I saw it rip the back door off a parked estate car. We were advised that the safest place that you can be in a hotel is in the bathroom because the ceiling area is smaller and better supported than the other rooms. The worst place to be is near a large window. Windows often get sucked out. One woman was killed by this particular tornado which occurred in the mid 80's. I believe that Ohio in the USA has more tornadoes than anywhere else on earth.
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.
Arteum, USA

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Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.

Map showing areas hit by storms

See also:

11 Nov 02 | Americas
11 Nov 02 | Science/Nature
11 Nov 02 | Americas
18 Sep 00 | Science/Nature
06 May 02 | Americas
25 Nov 01 | Americas
10 Oct 01 | Americas
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