Background: Killer Storms in in Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee
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TERENCE SMITH: In a number of Midwest towns today, people returned to their homes, looking for loved ones after the series of deadly tornadoes wreaked havoc.
MAN: They say the woman’s car is here, but we’re unable to locate her.
TERENCE SMITH: Some sifted through belongings to salvage whatever they could.
MAN: They’re fine. That’s what matters. We can always build ‘em a house.
TERENCE SMITH: In addition to those killed by the storms, scores were injured. Homes were reduced to their foundations, and neighborhoods left unrecognizable. Roofs were blown off buildings, trees were uprooted, power lines downed, and cars strewn along the streets. Typical of a tornado’s arbitrary path, homes on one side of this street were completely destroyed, while those on the other side were left standing.
WOMAN: It came right over our house. It destroyed Donna on one side of us, and it destroyed Verna on the other side of us, and we’re so badly damaged that we may as well be destroyed.
TERENCE SMITH: The governor of Missouri declared a state of emergency today; 17 people there have died. In pierce city, a town largely reduced to rubble, eight people remain missing. Two bodies were pulled from a National Guard Armory, where some sought refuge from the storm.
MAYOR MARK PETERS, Pierce City, Missouri: Perhaps thirty, forty, fifty who found what they were looking for, which was shelter. It was quick. It was loud. When I came out, I was amazed at the scope of damage. It didn’t seem like enough time for all that damage to have been done.
TERENCE SMITH: At least 11 people were reported dead in Tennessee. In the northwestern part of the state, one twister carved a 65-mile path, shredding homes and leaving behind mangled cars. A fire department official in Jackson described the devastation.
DAVID WADE, Jackson Fire Department: It was worse than we ever expected. Right now, downtown is as shut down as it can be. Most of the businesses, as I’ve said, have sustained damage. That information is going to be coming out, and we’re really afraid of what the number’s going to be.
TERENCE SMITH: Seven deaths were reported in Kansas. Seven counties have been declared disaster areas. Several homes were severely damaged in Kansas City, and in the southeastern part of the state, one-third of the town of Franklin was wiped out. In an appearance in Arkansas this afternoon, President Bush expressed his condolences to the victims, and offered help from the federal government.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The state and local authorities need to know the federal government will be moving as quickly as we possibly can to provide help where help is needed and where help is justified. Nature is awfully tough at times, and the best thing we can do right now is to pray for those who have suffered.
TERENCE SMITH: The danger may not be over. Forecasters issued tornado warnings late today from Missouri to Texas to Alabama.