Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

November 7, 2005

Tornado kills 22 in Indiana

EVANSVILLE — First came the roar, then the screams.

Ryan Belwood and his girlfriend awoke early Sunday to the roar of the tornado and scrambled for cover in a bathtub. Minutes later, they emerged to a landscape of destruction: Splintered wood, metal siding and tree limbs were strewn everywhere, and dozens of mobile homes had been crushed by the deadliest tornado to hit Indiana since 1974.

“All you could hear were people screaming, ‘Help me, help me,”’ said Belwood, 26.

The tornado that tore across western Kentucky and southwestern Indiana around 2 a.m. Sunday killed at least 22 people as it hit the mobile home park and cut a 15- to 20-mile path across the region, destroying trailers and houses as many residents slept through the storm warnings.

“It was just a real loud roar. It didn’t seem like it lasted over 45 seconds to a minute, then it was calm again,” said Steve Gaiser, who lives near the hard-hit Eastbrook Mobile Home Park.

At least 17 people were killed in the park, Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth said. More people were believed to be trapped in the debris, and rescuers raced to find survivors and recover the bodies of the dead.

Five people were confirmed dead in neighboring Warrick County, east of Evansville, where the Ohio River city of Newburgh was hit.

Sheriff Marvin Heilman said the victims included a woman who was eight months’ pregnant, her husband and a young child in the rural town of Degonia Springs. A teenage girl was also killed near Boonville, he said. No deaths were immediately reported in Kentucky.

The storm reduced homes to splinters and scattered debris across the countryside, injuring at least 200 people. Entire blocks of buildings were reduced to rubble, and thousands of homes were still without power late Sunday afternoon.

Vanderburgh County sheriff’s deputy Eric Williams said emergency sirens sounded twice around 2 a.m. in Evansville, but many residents of the mobile home park said they didn’t hear the warnings.

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