Thu, 01 Mar 2007 17:26 UTC
A tornado struck an Alabama high school, Thursday killing at least eight people, believed to be students and teachers, a state official said. The storm that struck Enterprise was one of several tornadoes that ripped a swath of destruction across at least three states, including Kansas and Missouri.
Yasamie Richardson, a spokeswoman with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, confirmed the eight deaths at the high school in Enterprise. Richardson said she believes there are students and teachers among the dead.
Officials also confirmed there are still people trapped at the high school.
Earlier a tornado struck in Wilcox County in western Alabama, killing at least one person, reportedly a man in his late 40s. Details were sketchy.
Toni Kaminsky, a spokeswoman with the medical center in Enterprise, said dozens of patients - including students and teachers - were waiting at the town hospital's emergency room. As many as six students have been airlifted to hospitals in nearby Dothan, about 30 miles from Enterprise, Kaminsky said.
William Cooper, a Wilcox County councilman, said he had seen more than 15 students with injuries. Cooper said he thought there were four students trapped in the school, with fire rescue personnel working to get them out. Cooper said that officials from numerous fire and police departments in the area have come to assist.
One person was killed when a tornado ripped through part of Wilcox County, the State Emergency Management agency said.
Other damage elsewhere
The destruction in Alabama followed other tornado damage elsewhere.
A tornado struck southern Missouri, killing a 7-year-old girl and damaging homes and businesses Thursday.
Howell County Sheriff Robbie Crites identified the young victim as Elizabeth Croney. Her mother, father and two brothers were injured when a tornado hit their mobile home in a rural wooded area near West Plains, Crites said.
In Caulfield, Rick Jarvis heard the storm ripping through his gas station around dawn. His home next door suffered just minor damage, but the twister shredded the business, ripping down its roof and back wall.
"It sounded like a herd of horses tearing up stuff. When I came out, it was done," said Jarvis, 48.
At least four mobile homes, two houses and two service stations in Caulfield were damaged when the twisters hit around 6:30 a.m., and a tornado also touched down near an elementary school in Caulfield. Two more tornadoes were also reported in the area, said Mike Wade, a dispatcher at the Howell County Sheriff's Office.
In Kansas' Linn County, along the Missouri state line, a tornado Wednesday night destroyed a power substation, and roofs and siding were torn from buildings, Linn County Emergency Management Director David Yates said. He said some minor injuries were reported.
The storm also ripped out poles and electric lines, but power was expected to be restored by the end of the day, said Paul Norris, operations manager for Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative.
The burst of tornadoes was part of a larger line of thunderstorm and snowstorms that stretched from Minnesota to Louisiana. In Nebraska, strong wind and heavy snow caused whiteout conditions in eastern Nebraska that forced the shutdown of 75 miles of Interstate 80.
But Alabama bore the brunt.
Tornado watches issued Thursday morning across Alabama led several school systems to close or dismiss students early. It wasn't immediately clear whether Enterprise, in southeast Alabama, was one of them.
Local officials reported there was significant damage to the school, with the gym's roof heavily damaged.
Enterprise student Amberlee Henderson said fellow students screamed as the tornado hit: "They were bleeding a lot and crying; there was glass everywhere ... no ceiling, no walls, cement blocks falling."
Martha Rodriquez, a 15-year-old sophomore at the high school, said she had left the school about five minutes before the storm hit. When she returned, she said that "a hall at the school collapsed, and there were kids inside."
She did not know if any were injured.
She said the stadium was destroyed, cars scattered in the parking lot, and trees were ripped out of the ground.
At Miller's Ferry in west Alabama, trailer homes were flipped over and trees downed by a storm that caused "extensive damage," according to Bernadine Williams in the Wilcox County Emergency Management Agency office. She did not know if there were any injuries.
State Rep. James Thomas told WSFA-TV in Montgomery that the Wilcox County fatality occurred six to eight miles west of Camden, in a rural area.