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Tornadoes kill at least 22 in four Southern states

February 06, 2008|From the Associated Press

ATKINS, ARK. — Tornadoes tore across four Southern states, demolishing homes, ripping the roof off a shopping mall and blowing apart warehouses in a rare spasm of violent winter weather that killed at least 22 people and injured dozens more.

The twisters that slammed Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky were part of a line of storms that raged across the nation's midsection at the end of a day of presidential contests.

A fire erupted at a natural-gas pumping station northeast of Nashville that authorities said could have been damaged by the storms. An undetermined number of people were reported dead.

An Atkins couple and their 11-year-old daughter were killed in their home when a tornado touched down near the center of the town, where authorities searched in the dark for survivors -- or more victims.

"This was an extraordinary night," said Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. "When it's compounded by darkness, that makes it that much more difficult."

Emergency crews went door to door Tuesday night seeking other possible victims in Atkins, working amid a heavy scent from splintered pines.

Outside one damaged home, horses whinnied in the darkness. On Southeast 2nd Street, a ranch home stood unscathed across the street from a concrete slab that had supported the house where three people died.

The storms killed at least 11 people in Arkansas, eight in Tennessee and three in Kentucky, authorities said.

The power was knocked out briefly at a Little Rock convention hall that hosted a party for GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor.

"While we hope tonight is a time for us to celebrate election results, we are reminded that nothing is as important as the lives of these fellow Arkansans," Huckabee said.

A shelter at the W.J. Matthews Civic Center in Atkins was empty except for Red Cross volunteers and a single touch-screen voting machine.

At least six tornadoes touched down in the 100 miles between Oxford, Miss., and Jackson, Tenn., according to the National Weather Service in Memphis, Tenn., where deaths and damage were also reported.

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