Nine killed in Indiana as tornadoes sweep Midwest, South
By NBC News and msnbc.com staff
Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET: Tornadoes swept across the Midwest and the South on Friday, hitting hardest in southern Indiana, where at least nine people were killed and an entire town was flattened. Homes and businesses were also destroyed in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee as at least 50 tornadoes touched down in six states at various times of the day.
State homeland security officials told NBC News that three people were killed in Jefferson County, three in Scott County, two in Ripley County and one on Clark County.
The town of Marysville, Ind., was "completely gone," and Henryville Junior-Senior High School was destroyed, Clark County sheriff's Maj. Chuck Adams told NBC News. All the students escaped, some with minor scrapes, Adams said.
Multiple tornadoes were still being reported in Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia and West Virginia well into the evening, the Weather Channel and the National Weather Service reported. In West Liberty, Ky., the Morgan County Courthouse sustained significant damage and an unknown number of people were injured or trapped in buildings. In Trimble County, Ky., a tornado leveled the Milton fire station.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday would likely end up as one of the five biggest tornado days of the year, with "tornadic activity" leading to watches or warnings in at least 17 states.
The tornadoes began when a "very large super-cell" of tornadoes touched down in northern Alabama early in the day, damaging homes and a prison and injuring at least four people. In southern Tennessee, another twister ripped 20 homes off their foundations and submerged boats, officials said.
At least 30 people were injured in Hamilton County, Tenn., authorities told NBC News, six to 10 of them critically. "Significant damage" was reported to subdivisions along Highway 68 east of Chattanooga.
Amy Maxwell, a spokeswoman for Hamilton County Emergency Services, said at least 20 homes were destroyed and that several people were trapped beneath downed trees and structures.
Two of the three runways at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport were closed, and residents of Kentucky and Ohio were advised to "maintain close awareness."
"This is a very dangerous situation," said Tom Bradshaw, the National Weather Service's Southeast regional director.
Rare extreme warningFor only the second time, the Weather Channel issued a TORCON warning of 10
as multiple tornado-producing super-cells moved across northern Kentucky — meaning forecasters believed there was a 100 percent chance of a tornado within 50 miles. The TORCON system was developed a few years ago, and the top warning was first used April 27, 2011, during a devastating outbreak of tornadoes across the South.
Paige Colburn, an emergency management officer at the Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency, told msnbc.com that the damage in Alabama covered a 4- to 5-mile swath in northern Madison County.
"The reason that it is so wide is because we’re not talking about one tornado. We’re talking about a very large super-cell that spawned several smaller tornadoes, and there’s possibly one very large one in there, too," she said.
Buckhorn High School sustained roof and window damage, but no injuries were reported, the state agency said in a statement. Part of the roof of Buckhorn Middle School was blown away, but all children were safe, Geraldine Tibbs, a spokeswoman for the Madison County Board of Education, told NBC News.
Back-to-back tornadoes also struck neighboring Limestone County on Friday morning. A training building at Limestone Correctional Facility, which houses 2,100 inmates, was destroyed, and two dorms and two other buildings suffered roof damage, Brian Corbett, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, told NBC News.
No one was hurt, and the prison was operating on generator power. The state has sent extra security, Corbett added.
March opens tornado season with a bang
A storm system earlier this week killed 13 people in four states in the Midwest and the South.
March is the start of the core of severe weather season over much of the country, said Russell Schneider, head of NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, and the "high risk" alert issued Friday — the weather service's top threat level — was the fifth during the month of March since 2000
"As far as any trends for the season, certainly this has been a very active week or two, but we really can't make any judgment on the full extent of the season at this time."
- Ioanna Dafermou, Justin Kirschner, Jessica Prater, Sarah Rosefeldt, Tracy Snyder and Edgar Zuniga of NBC News contributed to this report by Miranda Leitsinger and M. Alex Johnson of msnbc.com.Source is at MSNBC and has video and images
* Slide show of images
submitted to Cincinnati area station WCPO (most incredible is the cancelled check from 1982 from Henryville IN that ended up 100 miles away on someone's front porch)
* Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross and help victims of this tornadic outbreak in Southern Indiana. Henryville and Marysville have been all but annihilated.
* Edit: Those wanting to help with cleanup, please call the Cincinnati chapter of the Red Cross on Monday
* UPDATE: Death toll now up to 28
across Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.