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More bad storms flog south

BY SUSAN KIM | Southeastern U.S | April 3, 2000

Tornadoes, high wind, hail, and driving rain tracked across the southeast Monday, killing at least one person, uprooting entire houses, tearing off roofs, and toppling trees and power lines.

Reports indicate signficant pockets of devastation that stretch from Texas to Georgia. A death attributed to the bad weather occurred in Alabama, where

storms destroyed several mobile homes early Monday in Piedmont, near the Georgia-Alabama state line. Seven people were injured. Mobile homes in

Marengo County also sustained severe damage. Some 7,000 people lost power in Alabama, and hail two inches in diameter pounded Maxwell Air Force

Base in Montgomery.

The storm also sent a small plane into the Gulf of Mexico.

Earlier this month, in Jefferson County, AL, a tornado cut a swath through a suburban area, severely damaging at least 35 homes.

Georgia was also hard-hit, with 80 homes damaged or destroyed in Gwinnett County and 30 damaged or destroyed in Cherokee County. Polk County

also sustained widespread damage, with 15 buildings destroyed and six people injured. Other Georgia counties reported residential damage as well.

In Louisiana, seven tornadoes or the same tornado touching down seven times tracked through the state, ripping roofs off several houses, according to

Terry Thompson, public information officer for the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness. Winds of up to 80 mph were also reported.

"We also had some flooding, especially street flooding in the state," added Thompson.

In Texas, 120-mph wind destroyed two homes near Houston region late Sunday, damaged dozens more homes, and tossed mobile homes asunder. More

than 17,000 homes lost power in that area.

In Mississippi, "there are limbs down and power lines down, as well as some minor damage to homes," said Cliff Lusk, public information officer with the

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Funnel clouds were reported Sunday in Mississippi, and as much as 5 to 7 inches of rain fell in some counties.

Amid well-publicized reports of possible tornadoes, flooding also took its toll on homes and streets. Church World Service Disaster Resource Facilitator

Charlie Moeller reported that there was flooding in Birmingham, and spotty flood and wind damage across the whole South.

"We're just waterlogged," said Buddy Puryear, business manager for the Salvation Army in Shreveport, LA.

Weather forecasters are calling for a few days reprieve -- relatively dry weather Tuesday through Thursday -- but "Friday may be a different story," said

Jim Moser, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Another wet weather front will likely sweep in by next weekend, he said.

This season's severe weather in the southern U.S. -- though some forecasters report that it seemed to start exceptionally early -- is "a normal consequence

of the changing season," said Moser. "I don't see this as very unusual."

In the past few weeks, tornado and severe storm warnings have become commonplace, often issued for several days running.

Last week, Fort Worth, TX sustained major damage when tornadoes touched down in the business district, claiming four lives and injuring more than

100.

Earlier this month, Houma, LA was battered by tornadoes that damaged a couple hundred homes. Two deaths were attributed to the same storm system

because a waterspout capsized a shrimp boat south of Houma in the Gulf of Mexico. There, the interfaith Terrebonne Recovery Assistance Committee is

leading long-term recovery efforts.

In that state, the weekend's severe weather didn't stop a gathering of remembrance and memorial in Shreveport, where almost exactly a year ago -- on

April 5 -- a tornado killed six people. Easter weekend became a tragedy when a tornado cut an 8-mile swath across the Red River through major

suburban subdivisions, including two mobile home parks. The tornado touched down when many people were gathering for Easter vigil services.

"They had a reunion on Saturday even though it was raining cats and dogs," said Puryear. "Anybody who was involved in the disaster or in the recovery

was invited. Afterward they gathered for a potluck lunch and everybody got to reminisce," he said.

In February, twisters ripped through Camilla, GA, killing 19, injuring more than 100, destroying 200 homes, and damaging 800 more. The three

tornadoes that touched down brought Camilla its worst disaster since the 1930s. Some residents of the small town were ripped from their beds in the

middle of the night by a tornado that was a mile wide in parts.

In January, tornadoes also swept through Owensboro, KY, destroying some 400 homes. Miraculously, nobody was killed. Many emergency officials

credit the town's new warning system for saving many lives. Tornado lead times have doubled over the past decade, but residents usually have between

nine and 20 minutes to prepare. The tornado's toll -- and the quarter-mile wide, 20-some mile long diagonal it cut across town -- is going to be evident for

a long time. The Methodist-affiliated Kentucky Wesleyan College there sustained millions of dollars in damages.

In Kentucky, the Kentucky Interchurch Disaster Recovery Program (KIDRP) oversees response to major disasters. KIDRP is a statewide interfaith

committee created in 1974. It now includes 13 major denominations that respond to both natural and manmade disasters in Kentucky. In 1997, when

Kentucky was devastated by severe flooding, KIDRP established five satellite groups.


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