Storms demolish small towns in Ind., Ky.; 37 dead

By Ken Kusmer

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, March 3 2012 12:00 p.m. MST

More severe storms were expected Saturday across parts of southern Georgia and northern Florida.

Friday's storms covered a larger area but appeared to be less deadly than the tornadoes that killed more than 240 people in Alabama last spring.

"I think the concentration of more intense tornados was higher in the April 27 event," said Corey Mead, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. "It was a very much more focused corridor."

The storm system that swept across the Mississippi River Valley into Ohio, Tennessee and the Gulf Coast featured strong winds that changed direction and increased in speed as they rose in the atmosphere, creating a spin, Mead said. Tornadoes developed when the cold air in the storm system hit warm air moving north from the Gulf of Mexico, he said.

Fourteen people died in Indiana, and 19 were killed in Kentucky, where National Guard troops, state troopers and rescue workers searched counties east and south of Lexington on Saturday. Three deaths were reported in Ohio, and one in Alabama.

In Washington County, Ind., residents described seeing a massive tornado come over a hill and plow through a grove of trees, which looked almost like a line of bulldozers eight wide had rolled through, crushing the land.

When Gene Lewellyn, his son and his son's 7-year-old daughter saw the tornado come over the hill, they rushed to the basement of his one-story brick home and covered themselves with a carpet. Lewellyn's son laid over his daughter to protect her, and then a black cloud enveloped the house.

"It just shook once, and it (the house) was gone," said Lewellyn, 62, a retired press operator.

His family was safe, but their home was reduced to a pile of bricks with sheet metal wrapped around splintered trees. Pieces of insulation coated the ground, and across the street a large trailer picked up by the storm had landed on top of a boat. Lewellyn spent Saturday picking through the debris in 38-degree cold.

"Right now, we are not sure what we are going to do," he said. "We will get out what we can get out. Hopefully, we won't have to argue from the insurance company very much."

Associated Press writers Beth Campbell in Louisville, Ky.; Amanda Iacone in Charleston, W.Va.; Dylan T. Lovan and Bruce Schreiner in Henryville; and Randy Patrick in West Liberty, Ky., contributed to this report.

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