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Cleanup Begins After EF-3 Tornado Strikes

Mom, 9-Week-Old Child Killed

POSTED: 8:20 am CDT April 10, 2009
UPDATED: 10:22 pm CDT April 12, 2009

Cleanup began this weekend as Murfreesboro residents sifted through what remained of their homes after an EF-3 tornado struck midday on Friday, killing two people, injuring close to 50 and destroying houses.

Seven people had critical injuries, and about 718 homes were either destroyed or suffered some type of damage.

The tornado tore a 15-mile path through Murfreesboro and packed winds as high as 165 mph. Gov. Phil Bredesen visited the damaged areas on Saturday and said he would seek federal assistance.

An emergency shelter is open at New Vision Baptist Church, located at 1750 North Thompson Lane in Murfreesboro, to help residents affected by the storm by offering a safe place to stay, a hot meal, minor first aid and a shoulder to lean on. Pets are not permitted at Red Cross shelters. The Red Cross is only accepting monetary donations to help disaster victims.

Since the tornado relief operation began, the American Red Cross has provided more than 2,000 meals and emotional support for victims.

"We are working 24 hours a day trying to make sure we are meeting the needs of the community after this unthinkable disaster," said Red Cross CEO Greg King in a press release. "I have been so impressed by how the community has really stepped up to help the Red Cross during this time and hope that people will continue donating money to help with the Red Cross Disaster Relief Operation."

Rutherford County EMS Randy White said that 59 calls were responded to by emergency officials at about 12:40 p.m. Friday when the storm hit.

White confirmed that a 9-week-old girl and her mother, Kori Bryant, 30, died at the corner of Haynes Drive and Sulphur Springs Road. Her child, Olivia, was found in a car seat 200 yards from their house. Bryant's husband, John, was critically injured and hospitalized. A fund for the family was set up at area Bank of America branches.

As of Sunday night, 1,000 tons of debris had been removed from the affected areas.

Kyle Evans of Murfreesboro police said that there was significant damage to several businesses along Thompson Lane.

"I think we're right in the middle of tornado alley these days," said Dan Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department. "We possibly have four touchdowns of tornadoes in the county."

Friday afternoon, search teams fanned out across Murfreesboro, a city of about 100,500, looking for anyone trapped in homes. Clyde Atkinson, spokesman for the Murfreesboro Police Department, said he believes there were three to five touchdowns mostly in the northern and western parts of the city.

Amy Jones, 32, was at work at State Farm Insurance when she heard that her house had been leveled. She was stunned when she got to the scene and saw that the 1,800-square-foot home with a garage was lifted completely off the foundation and dropped on her neighbor's home.

"My house is on top of someone else's house. It's surreal," Jones said.

Ten homes were reported destroyed on Compton Road in northeast Murfreesboro. Emergency officials safely evacuated the people from the homes, and no one was hurt or killed in that area.

A Murfreesboro firefighter told Channel 4's Sara Dorsey that most of the injuries in the Blackman community were minor.

The Embassy Suites at the Murfreesboro Convention Center evacuated guests due to a power and water loss.

Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Martin said a possible tornado hit Henry Hall Road in northern Murfreesboro, destroying homes and cars. Residents said the severe storm only lasted a few seconds but was "very scary." There were no reports of injuries in this neighborhood. Residents helped police go house to house to make sure everyone was OK.

Dispatchers at the county Emergency Management Agency said the area had been "heavily impacted" and it was in "response phase" after several eyewitness reports of a tornado on the ground at about midday.

"It was definitely a tornado," retired Middle Tennessee State University professor John High said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

High lives in the northern part Murfreesboro, about 30 miles southeast of Nashville, and said he watched a tornado on the ground to the southwest of his home and saw debris flying.

He, his wife, two dogs and the cat piled into a bathroom as the tornado bore down on their home, but said the funnel lifted back up a half-block before it got there.

Jenna Lee, front desk receptionist at a Hampton Inn in Murfreeesboro, told AP that people came in off the street seeking cover when the tornado hit.

"I just stayed at the front desk and prayed," she said.

She said some guests at the hotel took pictures of the tornado.

"We saw it form; it went through town and disappeared in the distance."

High said his neighborhood is full of debris, including building materials like lumber, sheet rock and insulation.

Emergency crews in some places had difficulty getting to the affected areas because of downed power lines.

At 2:25 p.m. on Friday, Interstate 24 at state route 840 was backed up after a tractor-trailer crash. A visitor to the Panera Bread restaurant said they saw a tornado hit Murfreesboro near Old Fort Parkway.

Storm spotter Wesley Marshall said from his perspective at exit 55 off Interstate 24, he saw a tornado blow debris and touchdown for an estimated six to eight minutes. Marshall said the storm hit near the Murfreesboro Airport.

Marshall said there were telephone poles down and warehouses damaged.

Murfreesboro resident Jennifer Allen said she saw the tornado at Memorial Boulevard and Osborne Lane. Allen said there were uprooted trees and debris strewn across the area.

Brian Smith, general manager at a Cracker Barrel restaurant along Interstate 24, said he saw a "pretty wide" tornado.

Smith said he "could see debris in the air from the rotation."

Smith said they were moving customers away from windows when he saw the tornado. No one in the restaurant was hurt.

Confirmed Tornado In Sumner County

There were 15 preliminary reports of confirmed and unconfirmed tornadoes in southern Kentucky and middle Tennessee on Friday. At least eight counties reported damage from the storms.

In addition, the National Weather Service also a confirmed EF1 tornado in northwest Sumner County that damaged three homes and one mobile home. That storm hit Creekmore Road near Johnsons Crossroads.

Two homes were destroyed in Christian County, Ky., from a possible tornado.

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