Fierce Storms Rip Through Midwest

A line of thunderstorms spun off high winds and howling tornadoes Sunday, killing at least 24 people and leaving a swath of shredded buildings, downed trees and power lines across six states.

Twenty people were killed in northwestern Tennessee, 12 of them in Dyer County and eight in neighboring Gibson County, officials in the Volunteer State said Monday.

Three people died in Missouri and another in Illinois, authorities said.

Dyer County Sheriff Jeff Holt said his county saw "absolute total destruction of homes."

"There's nothing left but a foundation on some houses," he said, adding that large trees across roadways had slowed the deployment of emergency equipment early on.

The National Weather Service said it had preliminary reports of 63 tornadoes overnight, according to The Associated Press.

'I heard roaring'

In the Gibson County town of Newbern, Betty Sisk told AP she and her 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son tried to take cover during the storm but powerful winds threw them into the yard as their home was shredded.

"By the time the [tornado] sirens started going off, it was at our back door," Sisk told AP. "I didn't hear a train sound, I heard a roaring."

She and the children took shelter in a closet until the twister blew their house apart and threw them into the yard, where they huddled until the storm passed, AP said. Nothing remained of Sisk's wood-frame home Monday but the concrete steps.

A twister carved a path through a cluster of homes near the Jimmy Dean Foods plant north of Newbern, where several victims died, AP reported. The plant, which makes breakfast sausages and other food products, also sustained some damage, a security guard told AP.

Authorities released details of some of the deaths in Missouri and Illinois.

  • In Fairview Heights, Illinois, a man was killed when an apparent tornado flattened a clothing store, police said. Fairview Heights is near St. Louis, Missouri.

  • Straight-line winds -- not a twister -- toppled a mobile home in Essex, Missouri, killing 42-year-old man, Stoddard County Sheriff Carl Hefner said.

  • Near Ballwin in St. Louis County, Missouri, a man was killed when a tree fell on him during a heavy storm, a county police spokesman said.

    Official: Half of town destroyed

    About a half-dozen tornadoes struck Arkansas and one destroyed nearly half of the town of Marmaduke, a fire department official told the AP.

    "There are people unaccounted for, but we don't even know if they were out of town yet," the AP reported, quoting acting fire commander Chris Franks on Monday.

    Officials limited access to the town in northeastern Arkansas because of a ruptured natural gas line, AP said.

    "Almost every single structure in Marmaduke has minor to moderate damage, but almost 50 percent of it is totally destroyed," Franks told the AP. In 1997, much of the town also was damaged by a tornado, the AP reported.

    In Missouri's Pemiscot County, several people have been rescued after being trapped in their homes but others were still trapped early Monday, according to a dispatcher with the sheriff's department.

    The town's power was out and officials expected it would not be restored for several days, he said.

    Illinois storms

    A long front of severe weather stretched "pretty much from north to south" in Illinois, although the most powerful cell appeared to follow an eastward path along Interstate 72, according to Illinois Emergency Management spokeswoman Patti Thompson.

    The town of Taylorville in Christian County, Illinois, received significant damage to dozens of homes and businesses, according to Taylorville Emergency Management Director George Michael Crews. (Watch storage buildings shredded by the storm -- 1:30)

    "We do not have any life safety concerns," Crews said, with only minor injuries reported.

    The National Weather Service also reported tornado touchdowns in the Illinois counties of Champaign, McLean, Macon, Piatt, Sangamon and Kankakee. Initial damage reports in those counties were limited to utility poles and trees down, in addition to roof damage.

    Indiana, Ohio

    Severe thunderstorms also struck Indianapolis, Indiana, as thousands of fans departed a free John Mellencamp concert that was part of the NCAA's Final Four weekend, AP reported. Concertgoers scrambled for cover as tornado sirens sounded and sheets of heavy rain lashed the sidewalks and streets, according to television reports.

    In Ohio, the storms ripped off the roof and chimney from a home in Warren County northeast of Cincinnati, AP reported. Downed trees and power lines were widespread.

    "In every county in southwest Ohio, there has been some type of damage," AP quoted Myron Padgett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

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