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Harrisburg, Illinois Storm: Tales Of Chaos (PHOTOS)

Harrisburg Il Storm

First Posted: 03/ 1/2012 1:54 am Updated: 03/ 1/2012 2:24 pm

HARRISBURG, Ill. (AP) — 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 what he could before more storms roll in. When he arrived, a neighbor handed him his mother's wallet, which the storm had deposited in a truck near her home.

If another twister hit the same area, the blow to the town would be grave, he said.

"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.

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.

Poole says both rounds of violent weather carry the potential of more tornadoes.

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.

Ryan Jewell, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center, said the next system is forecast to take a similar path as Wednesday's storms and has the potential for even more damage.

On Friday, he said, both the Midwest and South will be directly in the danger zone.

At least 16 tornados were reported from Nebraska and Kansas across southern Missouri to Illinois and Kentucky, according to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., an arm of the National Weather Service.

Six people were killed in Harrisburg when blocks of homes were flattened by the storms.

In Missouri, one person was killed in a trailer park in the town of Buffalo, while two more fatalities were reported in the Cassville and Puxico areas.

A tornado also hopscotched through 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.

Three people were reported killed in eastern Tennessee — two in Cumberland County and another in DeKalb County.

And in Harveyville, Kan., a man whose home collapsed on him was taken off life support Wednesday evening. An EF2 tornado with winds up to 130 mph had demolished much of the tiny community.

Some people don't take storm warnings seriously, Osman said, but "they might change their thinking now."

"I always took them seriously," he added. "I always felt those sirens were there for a reason."

The National Weather Service listed the Harrisburg tornado as 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, it hit as many slept — a timing research meteorologist Harold Brooks called unusual but "not completely uncommon."

Brooks, with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., said perhaps 10 percent of tornadoes happen between midnight and 6 a.m., a time when the danger level rises because the 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 on the danger," Brooks said.

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

At Harrisburg Medical Center, staffers were alerted to the tornado's approach by the sheriff's department some 20 minutes ahead of time.

"We get these calls periodically, and often it's a false alarm," said the center's CEO, Vince Ashley. "But we get them often enough that everyone knows what to do."

Nurses hustled patients into the hallways and away from windows, closing the doors behind them. They were fighting to close the last of the heavy, steel fire doors at the end of the hallway when the tornado came.

Seconds later, Ashley said, windows started shattering, walls shook and ceiling tiles rattled.

The fierce winds blew some walls off some rooms, but no one was hurt.

Some portions of the hospital were so badly damaged they will have to be completely rebuilt.

Nearby, Amanda Patrick was rousted by the sirens with about five minutes to spare.

She called Donna Rann — her neighbor and co-worker at the U.S. Forest Service — to alert her but got no answer, then thrust herself into a bathtub as the twister blasted through.

"Not trying to be holy, I got on my knees and said, 'God, watch over me,'" she said.

The winds shifted the tub as the walls buckled above her. In a T-shirt and pajama pants, she crawled shoeless into the rain and muck.

She called out for Donna and her husband, Randy, but heard nothing back. Both died in their duplex across the street.

Hours later, tears streamed down Patrick's face as she grieved.

"A couple weeks ago, there was a bad storm, and I looked out the window to check on them," she said, sobbing. "Donna texted me and said, 'I saw you in the window.' She was checking on me. That's the way we were, always just looking out for each other."

This time, she said, "they didn't have a chance."

___

Jim Salter and AP photographer Mark Schiefelbein in Branson, Mo., Rochelle Hines in Oklahoma City, Okla., and Janet Cappiello in Louisville 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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