A roundup of reports from around the South, where deadly storms ripped through Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Kentucky Tuesday night leaving a wake of death and destruction...
From the 9PM Wednesday TEMA Situation Report:
There are 31 persons reported as fatalities by the Tennessee Department of Health and over 191 injured; one person is missing.
• Union University had 16 students trapped in a dormitory, 3 critical injuries. [Ed. note: The university was virtually destroyed, with damage estimated at $40 million. Miraculously, there were no fatalities.]
• Jackson Oaks Retirement Center initially reported 50 persons trapped, American Red Cross arrived and moved the residents to a shelter.
• Up to 25 tractor trailer trucks overturned (revised) on I-40 between Mile Markers 60 and 70 between Memphis and Brownsville.
• THP radio tower with THP and TEMA antennas fell in Arlington.
• Memphis Airport closed Runway 27 and Taxiways 2A and 2B; Gate B39 damaged.
SHELTERS: 3 open with 131 occupants (peak was 140).
Emergency response efforts are underway in affected areas today. Once those efforts are completed, Bredesen has asked state and local agencies to obtain rapid damage assessments to support an anticipated request for federal disaster relief. Additional information about state and federal assistance for affected counties will be released as details become available.
Bredesen has been receiving briefings since the storms struck last night. This morning he has been working with local officials in the most heavily impacted counties by phone and will tour storm damaged areas later today and tomorrow.
Governor Mike Beebe has declared Baxter, Conway, Independence, Izard, Pope, Randolph, Sharp, Stone, Union and Van Buren Counties state disaster areas due to the damage caused by powerful tornadoes and violent thunderstorms on Tuesday, February 5. Governor Beebe toured damage sites in Pope, Van Buren, Baxter and Stone Counties, meeting with storm victims and local officials who are coordinating recovery efforts.
The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management is establishing locations for Disaster Recovery Centers. Governor Beebe has also signed Arkansas formal request for federal disaster assistance. He spoke by phone Wednesday with President George W. Bush, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator R. David Paulison. All three offered federal resources, and FEMA assessment teams will be on the ground in Arkansas on Thursday.
Governor Beebe's disaster declaration releases $250,000 from the Governor's Disaster Fund to be used by the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management through the Individual Assistance Program. Affected residents in all ten counties can apply for assistance by phone at 1-877-828-3362.
Gov. Steve Beshear this morning declared a State of Emergency in the Commonwealth due to the impact of a series of intense thunderstorms and embedded tornados that resulted in widespread power outages, damage to commercial and private structures, injuries and at least seven deaths. He is flying by National Guard helicopter to the effected areas to survey the damage.
Local emergency declarations have been issued by county and city officials in Muhlenburg County and Central City of Muhlenburg, City of Brandenburg and Monroe County and with more expected as damage assessments are made during daylight hours.
Governor Bob Riley will seek a federal disaster declaration for areas of north Alabama hit by tornadoes on Wednesday. In addition, the Governor has declared a State of Emergency exists in Jackson, Lawrence and Walker counties.
Six deaths in Alabama have been attributed to the storms and dozens of homes have been destroyed or damaged. Local and state responders have been assessing damage and helping communities begin the recovery process.
Governor Haley Barbour declared a State of Emergency today following the tornadoes and severe weather that struck parts of North Mississippi, including Alcorn, DeSoto, and Lafayette Counties. The Governor is requesting preliminary damage assessment teams from the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) due to storm damages suffered by the region.
The State of Emergency will allow state resources to be used in the areas most heavily affected by the storm, which are Alcorn, DeSoto and Lafayette Counties. If an SBA declaration is granted for these areas, storm victims, businesses and non-profit organizations will be allowed to apply for low-interest disaster recovery loans.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency personnel were deployed to assist the counties with preliminary damage assessments and recovery efforts following the storms and remain in the counties continuing that work, along with the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and other volunteer agencies.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has deployed its Atlanta-based Federal Incident Response Support Team (FIRST) to Tennessee. Two mobile high-tech communications vehicles staffed by five team members left Dobbins Air Reserve Base at midnight last night and currently are based in Lafayette in Macon County.
FIRST is supporting federal and state leadership as they coordinate emergency support for the response effort by ensuring that essential communications channels remain accessible and operational. In addition to computers and cell phones, the self-contained vehicles include state-of -the-art satellite technology that will provide video-teleconferencing capability for federal, state and local emergency response officials.
The muddy field was littered with debris after a wave of violent storms: Living room couches, strollers, children's toys. So when two rescuers came upon a baby, they thought he was a doll. Then he moved. "We grabbed hold of his neck (to take a pulse) and he took a breath of air and started crying," said David Harmon, a firefighter from a nearby county who was combing the field for tornado victims.
In a region devastated by tornadoes that killed at least 57 people as they swept through five states, the infant was a sign of hope. The 11-month old boy, named Kyson, was surrounded by flattened homes, bricks from a blown-apart post office and snapped trees, a devastating scene similar to so many communities across the South.
The baby's mother, 24-year-old Kerri Stowell, was one of six people killed in the small community, said Sumner County Sheriff Bob Barker.