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Illinois Tornado: Potential Harrisburg Twister Turns Deadly

Harrisburg Illinois Storm

JIM SUHR   03/ 1/12 08:15 PM ET  AP

HARRISBURG, Ill. — Crews cleared splintered plywood and smashed appliances from small-town neighborhoods Thursday, a day after tornadoes killed 13 people in the Midwest and South. But the forecast held a menacing possibility: More twisters may be coming, and they could be even stronger.

Damaged communities tried to take advantage of the brief break in the weather, mindful of one meteorologist's warning that by Friday, both regions would again be "right in the bull's eye."

Skies were sunny in the southern Illinois community of Harrisburg, where Darrell Osman was back in the rubble of his dead mother's home, trying to salvage whatever he could. When he arrived, a neighbor handed him his mother's wallet, which the twister had dropped in a truck near her home.

He couldn't help but think of the pain that would be inflicted if another twister hit Harrisburg, a town of 9,000 where six people died.

"On a personal level, I think I've been hit as hard as I can be hit, but it would be disheartening for this community," Osman said.

Kera Wise searched the ruins of her aunt and uncle's home after the two were hospitalized in neighboring Indiana with injuries they suffered in the storm.

Wise figured she had little time to waste in rounding up her aunt's prized trove of Elvis memorabilia and Beenie Babies. Another line of storms could ruin anything left exposed to the elements.

"You just keep thinking, `God, please don't let there be another tornado.'"

National Weather Service meteorologist Beverly Poole said severe storms are expected to roll through the region again after midnight Thursday and linger into early Friday, possibly bringing hail and rain.

Then yet another system is expected to arrive Friday afternoon.

Both rounds of violent weather carry the potential of more tornadoes, Poole said.

The weather service planned to bring a severe-weather specialist to the region's command center to provide up-to-the-minute information before and during the storms.

Osman awoke before Wednesday's storm because he was alerted by his special weather radio. He said early warning equipment was essential.

"The peace of mind you get from it sitting on your dresser is well worth the cost," he said.

Authorities warned that the next line of storms was forecast to take a similar path and potentially grow stronger than Wednesday's system.

Ryan Jewell, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center, said the Midwest and South will be squarely in the center of the danger zone.

Wednesday's fatalities spanned four states. In addition to the Illinois deaths, one person was killed in the Missouri town of Buffalo, while two more fatalities were reported in the state's Cassville and Puxico areas. All three died in mobile homes.

A Harveyville, Kan., man suffered fatal injuries after his home collapsed on him, and three more people were killed in eastern Tennessee.

Another twister hopscotched down the main thoroughfare of the country music mecca of Branson, Mo., damaging some of the city's famous theaters just days before the start of the town's crucial tourist season.

Local leaders insisted Branson was open for business, but they expected the full cleanup to take weeks.

In Harrisburg, Levi Fogle and Sarah Pearce – parents of three young daughters – were grateful that their entire family survived without a scratch even though two oak trees toppled onto their home.

"God held my house up, there's no doubt about that," Pearce said Thursday as Fogle strummed a guitar, shaking it at times to jingle the glass fragments that got inside after the instrument was left in the backseat of a car.

The Harrisburg tornado was an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. Scientists said it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph.

Adding to the danger was the storm's timing: It hit when many people were fast slept.

Meteorologist Harold Brooks called that unusual but "not completely uncommon."

Brooks, with the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., said perhaps 10 percent of tornadoes strike between midnight and 6 a.m., a time when storms are harder to spot, and it's harder to get the word out.

"If you're asleep, you're less likely going to hear anything, any warning message," Brooks said.

That didn't appear to be the case in Harrisburg, where the mayor credited storm spotters for saving lives.

In Tennessee, donated storage units were to be offered to families whose homes were damaged so they could protect possessions before the next round of storms.

The brother-in-law of a woman who was killed said he found her under some debris and held her hand until paramedics arrived.

George Jones and several relatives gathered Thursday at the shattered mobile home of Melissa Evans Beaty outside the small city of Crossville, about 110 miles east of Nashville.

He said Beaty, whom they called Lisa, was alive and asking about her grandchildren after the twister passed.

The children were all right, but Beaty later died, and her husband, Ricky, was taken to a Knoxville hospital with a fractured pelvis and severe head trauma, Jones said.

"We would give anything, to have Lisa back," he added.

The couple's home was completely destroyed, with pieces wrapped around nearby trees.

Bunny Howe survived with her 9-year-old grandsons by climbing into a bathtub as she watched the wind pick up one of her horses in the back yard, then overturn part of a tractor-trailer in the front yard.

That's when she got on top of the children and held the bathroom door shut with her feet.

The children asked her, "Ma, what are we going to do?'" She told them, "We're going to pray."

The tornado tore off a wall of the Howes' garage and toppled a tree onto the roof.

After all that, Howe said, she's not overly concerned about storms predicted for Friday.

"What's it going to do?" she asked. "Take the rest of the house down?"

___

Associated Press Writer Kristin M. Hall in Crossville, Tenn., contributed to this report.

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  • Shopping Mall in Harrisburg Before Storms

    Credit: <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps/place?hl=en&safe=off&gs_upl=&ix=seb&ion=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&biw=2005&bih=1232&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=cash+store+harrisburg,+il&fb=1&gl=us&hq=cash+store&hnear=0x8870c38d65eb5a95:0xe842f6ed698c2ce4,Harrisburg,+IL&cid=17029494789117049799&ei=JZ9PT9KiDI7tggeb-KTtDQ&sa=X&oi=local_result&ct=photo-link&cd=1&resnum=2&ved=0CBwQnwIoADAB" target="_hplink">Google</a>

  • Shopping Mall In Harrisburg After Storms

    Credit: Caleb Cattivera

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents ride past a tree that was downed by severe storms that destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A stop sign, that was bent over by severe storms, stands on a street corner in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Furniture and walls are what is left of a home the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents gather the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Volunteer fireman Jeff Woodyard recovers golf clubs from his father-in-law's home in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to the small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A stuffed toy lies in a ditch the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to the small town in Kansas.(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Luke Russell clears debris from a storm-damaged home, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harveyville, Kan. A tornado that damaged at least half of the tiny eastern Kansas town of Harveyville on Tuesday night was an EF-2 with wind speeds of 120 to 130 mph, state emergency management officials said Wednesday. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

  • <em>From AP:</em> An unidentified man enters Riggin's Market and Deli in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. The business was closed due to severe storms that destroyed several homes and businesses in town. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to the small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> An unidentified man clears storm damage the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste the small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A tornado-damaged home sits amid debris along Main Street, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harveyville, Kan. The small eastern Kansas town of Harveyville took a direct hit from an apparent tornado late Tuesday, injuring at least 11 people and reducing much of the town to ruins. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Volunteers walk past storm damage in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to the small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Tammy Woodyard, center, talks to neighbor Grant Hill, right, and his daughter, Talla, about the tornado damage to her father's home behind her, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harveyville, Kan. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents walk the streets the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Tammy Woodyard, of Harveyville, surveys the wreckage of her father's home the morning after a tornado hit the town, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harveyville, Kan. Her father was unhurt. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents talk in front of a home after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents and volunteers line up for food and drink, the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Margaret Shimkus, 61, talks with an emergency responder about her condition Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, at her home in Harrisburg, Ill., after an early morning tornado ripped through the town. Shimkus, who took refuge in her bathtub, sustained a minor cut from the early morning storm, but Dorothy Hill, her neighbor in the duplex home, was taken to a hospital with injuries. (AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee)

  • <em>From AP:</em> In this image made with a cell phone, a residential area is heavily damaged in Harrisburg, Ill., after a severe storm swept through the area early Wednesday morning, Feb. 29, 2012. A hospital administrator in Harrisburg says at least three people were killed in the storm that swept through the region. (AP Photo/The Southern, Paul Newton)

  • <em>From AP:</em> In this image made with a cell phone, damage is seen to a strip mall in Harrisburg, Ill., after a severe storm swept through the area early Wednesday morning, Feb. 29, 2012. A hospital administrator in Harrisburg says at least three people were killed in the storm that swept through the region. (AP Photo/The Southern, Paul Newton)

  • <em>From AP:</em> In this image made with a cell phone, a residential area is seen severely damaged in Harrisburg, Ill., after a severe storm swept through the area early Wednesday morning, Feb. 29, 2012. At least three people are confirmed dead in Harrisburg, said Harrisburg Medical Center CEO Vince Ashley, and the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured. (AP Photo/The Southern, Paul Newton)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A residential area in Harrisburg, Ill. is damaged after a storm passed, Wednesday , Feb. 29, 2012. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/ Stephen Lance Dennee)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Emergency crews comb through some of the damage after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Keith Hucke, left, and Devyn Byrd, 14, survey the damage sustained to Hucke's house after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. Hucke said he was in his bed when the wall right next to him collapsed during the storm. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents take in some of the damage after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Emergency crews comb through some of the damage after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Emergency crews comb through some of the damage after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Roy Mauney of Harrisburg, Ill., collects clothes from a dresser in what remains of his parents house after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Saline County city. Mauney said his parents survived the storm by taking cover in a bathtub before their house blew off its foundation and across the street. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Emergency crews comb through some of the damage after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Gene Byrd pauses for a moment while he and his son Devyn Byrd, 14, look over some of the damage sustained to a friends house after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Emergency responders work to clear debris in a neighborhood in Harrisburg, Ill., after an early morning tornado Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. At least six people died in Harrisburg in the pre-dawn tornado. (AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Paul Johnson with Larry's Electric, works on the electrical system at Harrisburg Medical Center after an early morning tornado damaged the hospital Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisburg, Ill. At least six people died in Harrisburg in the pre-dawn tornado. (AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Debris lies on the ground outside Nell Cox's Harrisburg, Ill. home Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, where a tornado ripped through earlier in the day. Cox, a cancer survivor who lives alone, awoke during the tornado, shined a flashlight out her window and saw her neighbor, who was ejected from her bed and out a window, lying in a ditch. Cox, who is in her seventies, went outside and brought the woman to safety until emergency services came. (AP Photo/Robert Ray)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A prosthetic leg found among the debris caused by a tornado that ripped through Harrisburg, Ill. leans against a damaged home Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. The tornado that blasted Harrisburg, killing six, was an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. Scientists said it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph. (AP Photo/Robert Ray)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Family members and friends try to salvage what they can after a tornado destroyed their neighborhood homes Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisburg, Ill. The tornado that blasted Harrisburg, killing six, was an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. Scientists said it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • <em>From AP:</em> People try to salvage what they can after a tornado destroyed homes in their neighborhood Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisburg, Ill. The tornado that blasted Harrisburg, killing six, was an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. Scientists said it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Jeff Rann, 29, right, pauses while sifting for possessions in the remains of their parents' duplex trying to salvage what he can after a tornado destroyed their parents home Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisburg, Ill. Their parents were cancer survivors Randy Rann, 65, and Donna Rann. Randy died at the scene and his wife died later at a hospital. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg talks about the destruction from a tornado as Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn listens during a news conference in Harrisburg, Ill., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. The tornado that blasted Harrisburg in southern Illinois, killing six, was an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. Scientists said it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph. (AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A utility worker tries to free storm debris suspended in a power line in Branson, Mo., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. An apparent tornado hopscotched through the city's main tourist district overnight, causing damage for miles. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Tim Thress, left, of Branson, and Wake Williams of Omaha, Ark., help carry merchandise out of a friend's storm-damaged store in Branson, Mo., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. Powerful storms that produced reports of multiple tornadoes and killed at least nine people elsewhere in the Midwest tore through the music resort town early this morning, injuring more than three dozen people. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A gas station is damaged and power lines are down in Branson, Mo, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A toppled sign lies in a street Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Branson, Mo. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/The News-Leader, Valerie Mosley)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Storm debris is piled near the entrance to the Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Mo, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas.(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents walk amid downed power lines in their neighborhood in Branson, Mo, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas.(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Metal debris is wrapped around trees and windows are shattered at the Ozark Mountain Inn in Branson, Mo, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Debris lies around the Midtown Cafe Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Branson, Mo. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas.(AP Photo/The News-Leader, Valerie Mosley)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Debris lies around the Legends Theater Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Branson, Mo. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas.(AP Photo/The News-Leader, Valerie Mosley)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Power lines lie on the ground Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Branson, Mo. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas.(AP Photo/The News-Leader, Valerie Mosley)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Windows and doors blown out of their frames rest against railings at a hotel in Branson, Mo, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system that produced multiple reports of tornadoes lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Sherry Cousins and her brother Bruce Wallace of Hollister, Mo., sit in the wreckage of their secondhand store in Branson, Mo, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system that produced multiple reports of tornadoes lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

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