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Storms And Tornadoes Lash Eastern U.S.


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel. For days, forecasters had predicted that today had the potential for dangerous weather. Those predictions turned out to be correct. Seventeen states - from Mississippi to Virginia, Indiana to Alabama - have had tornadoes on the ground. At one point, there were 25 different twisters churning across six states. Reports on deaths and injuries are beginning to trickle in. One hard-hit area is in southern Indiana - at least eight people there have died.

And reporter Erica Peterson, of member station WFPL, joins us now from Sellersburg, Indiana. Erica, you were earlier in Henryville, I believe, a town that had significant damage, including the high school, which was destroyed. What were you able to see there?

ERICA PETERSON, BYLINE: Well, not a lot. It's nighttime now, and pretty much all you can see when you drive through Henryville are police flashing red and blue lights. There is significant damage. You can see right off the road - I saw a gas station that was totally demolished, a semi on its side. But most of the worst damage is behind police barricades, including - it's not only the high school. I've actually learned it's the elementary, middle and high school, where everyone in the area did go to school. And that, according to some of the people I talked to, is just - it's just totally - it's gone. They're going to have to rebuild the high school.

SIEGEL: And what did emergency responders tell you they were focusing on most right now?

PETERSON: Well, right now, they're focusing on going from property to property, looking for people who could be trapped in their homes, making sure there's nobody injured that needs medical attention. And that's what I think they'll be focusing on the rest of the evening. It's - there's a pretty wide amount of area that was hit, especially because it's a rural area, so the houses aren't super close together. So that's what they're focusing on. They've set up a couple of places for people who don't have homes to go in the basements of a church and community center. And they're ferrying people there as they find them.

SIEGEL: Erica, did you get a chance to talk to any residents of Henryville?

PETERSON: I did. I spoke to several people. I talked to Kevin Guernsey. He was driving by on a four-wheeler and stopped to talk to me. He's 57 years old. He's lived in Henryville his whole life. He said he's never seen any kind of tornado that's caused this magnitude of damage. But he was driving around on a four-wheeler because the roads were very clogged. It's a small town. It's got, you know, two-lane roads going throughout. And even the roads that are open are just - are totally crammed with emergency vehicles and people trying to get to their homes. So he was going around to check on his rental properties. He said...

SIEGEL: Now...

PETERSON: ...have suffered significant damage.

SIEGEL: Earlier today, you were in Marysville, Indiana, a town of about 2,500. Initially, reports said the whole town was destroyed. What did it look like to you?

PETERSON: Well, it looked like a lot of the town was destroyed. Right off the road, there were still buildings standing, but there was significant destruction. There were houses that were just missing. There's foundation there and no home. But more common was just severe damage - trees fallen into houses, houses had actually been picked up and moved several feet off of their foundations. So, a significant amount of damage and rebuilding that's going to have to take place there, too.

SIEGEL: OK. Well, thanks for keeping us updated, Erica.

PETERSON: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's Erica Peterson, reporter of member station WFPL. She joined us from Sellersburg, Indiana, where she's tracking storm damage all across the state of Indiana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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