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Tornadoes Rip Through the Midwest, South

Weather: One person is killed in Mississippi and 7 are hurt in Tennessee, where hundreds are forced to flee an Olympics qualifying meet.

April 21, 1996| From Associated Press

Tornadoes chewed through communities from the Ohio Valley into the Deep South on Saturday, and a violent thunderstorm forced hundreds to flee a qualifying meet for Olympics-bound canoeists.

"It's just pathetic destruction," said Clifford Kerby, mayor of Berea, Ky., where a twister ripped a path right through the center of town.

Tornadoes elsewhere killed one person in Mississippi and injured several people in Tennessee as a line of thunderstorms rolled across the region. Tornado warnings were posted for Alabama but only minor damage was reported. On Friday evening, one person was killed and about 30 were injured by tornadoes in Illinois.

Berea, a community of about 8,000, appeared to be the hardest hit in Kentucky. About 800 to 1,000 homes were damaged, with about 20% of them destroyed, Kerby said. However, only minor injuries were reported by the storm that hit about 6 a.m. EDT

Roofs were blown off most of the area's motels, numerous businesses were wrecked and the campus of Berea College had "more trees down than standing," the mayor said.

National Guard troops were sent in to help clean up and to stop looting that had begun, he added.

Seven tornadoes touched down in Tennessee, injuring seven people. In the tiny town of Cornersville, a twister damaged seven mobile homes, three businesses and a school auditorium.

Wind reaching 110 mph near Cleveland, Tenn., forced organizers to stop Olympic white-water canoe and kayak qualifying competition on the Ocoee River, and hundreds of spectators were evacuated. Competition resumed about an hour later.

Another tornado ripped through Mississippi's Carroll County during the morning, crushing a mobile home and killing a teenager who was inside, authorities said.

The stormy weather struck central and southern Illinois on Friday evening.

Officials in Decatur, Ill., estimated 100 to 200 homes were damaged by high winds. Seventeen people were injured in Macon County; two of them were in critical condition, said Dan Sanner, the county's emergency management director.

Friday's storm splintered northwestern Decatur just 24 hours after another storm rampaged through the southeastern part of town.

Near Ogden in Champaign County, one person was killed when the truck in which she was riding was blown off Interstate 74, state police said.

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