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Dozens killed in severe storms

Hundreds of homes damaged, many hurt, in one of the worst tornado outbreaks in U.S. history.

BY JIM SKILLINGTON | February 6, 2008

One of the worst tornado outbreaks in U.S. history Tuesday night has left deaths and destruction in its wake across nine southern states. More severe weather is predicted for Wednesday.

The tornadoes struck a large number of populated areas including such Arkansas towns as Clinton, Gassville, Highland, Atkins and Shirley. Tennessee and Mississippi also reported tornado damage.

As many as 45 people lost their lives in the mayhem. Local hospitals were reporting many injuries.

Significant damage was reported in at least five areas of Arkansas where weather forecasters said a supercell thunderstorm that stayed on the ground for 2 and half hours Tuesday night spawned a number of tornadoes. Thousands of people were left without power.

Churches and schools were also damaged. According to Sheriff Jay White of Pope County, the Union Grove Baptist Church was destroyed. Emergency officials in Sharp County said the local high school in Highland was severely damaged.

The first wave of storms hit mid-afternoon Tuesday, while voters were still at the polls for the Super Tuesday primary. The storms continued into the night. Arkansas election officials said at least one polling place in Atkins continued to record votes even as the American Red Cross began setting up a shelter in the building.

In Memphis, firefighters were called to the Hickory Ridge Mall which was badly damaged. According to Memphis Fire Department spokesman, Lt. Keith Staples, firefighters rescued people trapped in the rubble of a Sears Store.

According to Steve Shular of the Shelby County Sheriff's Department, a number of homes were also damaged in that county as a result of the storm.

In Mississippi, a tornado hit the town of Oxford, causing major damage according to the Lafayette County Sheriff's office.

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