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Tornado survivor: 'I thought it was a bad dream'


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Tornado survivor: 'I thought it was a bad dream'




Ryan Belwood and his girlfriend awoke early Sunday to the sound of a tornado and scrambled for cover in a bathtub.


When they emerged minutes later, they witnessed a landscape of destruction: splintered wood, metal siding and tree limbs strewn about the carcasses of crushed mobile homes.


"All you could hear were people screaming, 'Help me, help me,' " said Belwood, 34.


The Eastbrook Mobile Home Park, a 320-home subdivision surrounded by cornfields, was the sight of the most lethal devastation caused by a powerful storm that struck southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky early Sunday. The twister was 500 yards wide and had winds topping 150 miles per hour. (Related: Deadly tornado strikes Midwest)


At least 17 of the 22 people confirmed dead were in the mobile home park.


Rescuers who arrived at the mobile home park shortly after the tornado hit reported seeing children wandering in the debris, looking for their parents, and parents searching for missing children.


On Sunday afternoon, a young girl was found in an air pocket under debris in a ditch, said Dale Naylor, assistant chief of Knight Township Volunteer Fire Department. The girl had been there since the tornado hit about 2 a.m.


"We're ecstatic," he said. "We've been dealing with death all day." It was not clear if the girl was injured, but she was talking to rescuers.


Residents of the mobile home park described the tornado's strength as ferocious.


"I thought it was a bad dream," said Tim Martin, 42, who was in a mobile home that was thrown into a neighbor's yard. He and his parents were unharmed, but heard neighbors calling for help.


Park resident Larry Brown rode out the storm inside his mobile home. After the storm, "we opened the door and there wasn't anything sitting there," he said.


Aerial photos showed several rows of flattened mobile homes. Concrete slab foundations were all that remained.


Indiana is part of a swath of Midwestern states, sometimes called "Tornado Alley," that is frequently hit by twisters. But the Evansville area is not in a part of Indiana that is particularly prone to tornadoes, said Wayne Hart, chief meteorologist at WEHT-TV in Evansville. And when they come, the tornadoes usually hit in the spring.


The deaths Sunday occurred in Vanderburgh County, where the mobile home park is, and in neighboring Warrick County.


Michael Kleeman warned neighbors when he heard bad weather was coming, then fled the mobile home park in his car. "The next thing I know, my ears are popping, the windows (on the car) are broke out," he told the Evansville Courier & Press. "I think we were airborne."


He returned to find most houses on his street destroyed.



11/07/2005 07:15




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