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TN town digs out from deadly twister

Rescue workers combed the wreckage at Mossy Grove, Tenn. for survivors Tuesday.


"We've got no phone and no power. It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack."

—Cecil Whaley

Rescue workers combed the wreckage at Mossy Grove, Tenn. for survivors Tuesday as stunned townspeople tried to come to terms with the devastation surrounding them.

A powerful tornado annihilated parts of this tiny town, located about 40 miles west of Knoxville.

The tornado touched down between 8:30 and 9 p.m. Sunday.

Preliminary reports from the scene classified the tornado as an F5, the most destructive type of tornado, with winds greater than 200 mph.

"We've only had one F5 in Tennessee history," said meteorologist Mark Rose with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Nashville. That tornado hit Lawrence County in April 16, 1998. Only one other Tennessee tornado came close to that classification.

A Church World Service (CWS) representative was deployed to Mossy Grove to assist with developing a long-term interfaith response. A Lutheran Disaster Response representative was working with CWS.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee was assessing damages and, in coordination with CWS, was determining its response as well.

The Tennessee Baptist Convention activated disaster relief units

statewide to offer aid and assistance to victims in dozens of


Brian Holloway, who pastors a church near Mossy Grove, said the devastation was unbelievable.

"The heart of Mossy Grove is gone," he said. "Huge oak trees about six feet in diameter were sucked out of the ground and

tossed down the road."

The Humane Society of the United States was in contact with local Mossy Grove officials to assess animal-related needs.

Severe storms moved through a six-state area Sunday, spawning killer tornadoes that smashed homes in dozens of communities.

Tennessee and Alabama looked to be the hardest hit states.

The storms also cut a 100-mile swath of damage through rural Ohio, severely damaging the town of Van Wert, about two hours southwest of Toledo. A twister there flattened a movie theater minutes after theater operations evacuated everyone because they heard tornado warnings.

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