EDITORS NOTE: Due to severe weather outbreak across Ohio and Tennessee River Valley’s, DMN Evening News will not be posted tonight.
HENRYVILLE, Indiana — (DMN) – Multiple long tracking tornadoes ripped up the Ohio River Valley this afternoon from Evansville, Indiana to the Ohio State line sparing some areas a devastating others. Emergency workers and residents looking for loved ones were streaming by the Henryville, Indiana school complex on Friday afternoon after at least one tornado tore through Clark County. The school’s roof has been torn off, segments of the wall have been knocked down and windows are blown out. At least half a dozen vehicles in the school’s parking lot have also been crushed by falling debris. A house near the school had its roof blown in.
Jerry Goodin, a spokesman for Indiana State Police, said that to his knowledge all of the students have been accounted for and none were injured. He said many other injuries have been reported around town. He said students were being taken to the town’s community center so that their families could pick them up. He said injured adults were being treated at the St. Francis Catholic Church in town. The storms killed at least four people and caused extensive property damage in Southern Indiana.
Authorities said three people were killed in Jefferson County, Ind., and one near Henryville, in Clark County. The deaths occurred in Chelsea, the Madison mayor said. Numerous injuries were reported in Clark County, where Henryville High School sustained extensive damage. The death was on an outlying road and did not occur at the high school, officials said. Les Kavanaugh, Clark County’s EMS director, said students had been kept at the high school as the storms approached. He had no word on injuries.
Kavanaugh said Marysville, also in Clark County, suffered significant damage, as did Pekin, according to an Indiana State Police dispatcher. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department dispatcher Shelly Jones said houses are missing near the unincorporated town of Chelsea, about 30 miles north of Louisville. Southern Indiana was particularly hard hit, with Indiana Department of Homeland Security spokesman John Erickson saying three had died in Jefferson County as a result.
Aerial footage from CNN affiliate WLKY showed structures seemingly torn to shred and large swaths of trees knocked down in Henryville, about 20 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky. Other overhead shots showed similar devastation in St. Paul, Indiana. And Jeffersonville, Indiana, Mayor Mike Moore said he’d heard from a county police officer that the town of Marysville is “gone.” This all is because of a potent and widespread system that has spawned several tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service — including at least one in Indiana’s Posey County at approximately 1:43 p.m. CT (2:43 p.m. ET), plus two twisters that touched down in northeast Alabama.
Tracking tornado near Borden Indiana: Chad Hinton shared his video tracking a tornado from along Indiana 60 about 60 miles outside Borden, Indiana. (Courtesy Chad Hinton)
In Tennessee, severe weather was responsible for critical injuries of as many as eight people in the cities of Harrison and Oolteweh, officials there said. The storm brought golf-ball-size hail, strong winds and rain into the two northeast Alabama counties before continuing on a northeastward path into Tennessee. Between 40 and 50 homes in Hamilton County, Tennessee, have “significant damage that we know about,” the county’s Chief of Emergency Management Bill Tittle told CNN. Reporting from that area near Chattanooga, CNN’s Rob Marciano observed a continuous stretch of damage about 200 yards wide that ripped what had been brick and mortar homes down to their foundations.
Tittle said that there are 24 reported injuries and, while none of those appear to be life-threatening, he acknowledged that “we have not reached all the homes.” “We obviously have lots of debris, homes with roof damage, streets that are impassable that we have crews cutting down trees with chainsaws in order to get emergency vehicles through, and as of now our crews are just going door-to-door on foot,” said Amy Maxwell, Hamilton County, Tennessee, emergency management spokeswoman.
Maxwell later said six to 10 people were at local hospitals after suffering injuries, and a triage area was set up at Ooltewah High School to treat patients on the scene. Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said a touchdown of a tornado had been confirmed, though he expressed optimism that sound preparation and safety measures appeared thus far to prevent any deaths. “We’re just working diligently at this hour to try to make sure that everyone is accounted for,” Coppinger told CNN. “And hopefully we’ll be able to escape (without fatalities).” Meanwhile, there were no immediate reports of injuries at either Buckhorn High School in Madison County or the Limestone County Correctional Facility in an adjacent county, both in Alabama. But there was widespread damage in Madison County, the National Weather Service said, and some injuries were reported, according to a local ambulance service.
The Madison County Emergency Management Agency confirmed that a rain-wrapped tornado was spotted near the Harvest area, just northwest of Huntsville, which itself was hit hard by a tornado last year. “The key thing that let me know it was serious was the loud wind,” said Hovet Dixon of Harvey, Alabama. “It almost seemed like it was trying to lift my roof off.” The scene after the storm passed in the areas where the apparent tornadoes touched down looked similar to what parts of the Midwest and South suffered earlier this week, with damaged homes and downed power lines. Thousands were without power.
The warden for the Limestone Correctional Facility, Dorothy Goode, said the prison was hit by the storm. All prisoners — the facility holds about 2,200 — were accounted for, she said. These were the first reported twisters from a storm system that threatened the already hard-hit Midwest and South. Forecasters said the areas most at risk for twisters on Friday were southern Indiana, southern Ohio, most of Kentucky, central Tennessee, northeastern Mississippi and northwestern Alabama. Storms were expected to proliferate during the afternoon, with the most likely window for tornadoes between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET, according to CNN meteorologist Sean Morris.
There is the potential for widespread damaging wind gusts, large hail and violent tornadoes in some areas. Storms are expected to begin to weaken during the late evening as they move east toward the Appalachians. The severe weather threat should diminish overnight Friday into Saturday morning, Morris said. These tornadoes follow an earlier outbreak that began Tuesday night and left 13 dead across Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee and battered parts of Kentucky.