Friday’s storms déjà vu for too many - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Friday’s storms déjà vu for too many

Updated:
A WAVE viewer's photo of a tornado touching down in Carroll County, IN. (Source: WAVE) A WAVE viewer's photo of a tornado touching down in Carroll County, IN. (Source: WAVE)
At least three people are dead after severe storms hit the community of Piner in Kenton County, KY. (Source: WXIX) At least three people are dead after severe storms hit the community of Piner in Kenton County, KY. (Source: WXIX)
Angel Babcock was found in a field after a tornado touchdown in Indiana. She later died at Kosair Children's Hospital. (Source: CNN) Angel Babcock was found in a field after a tornado touchdown in Indiana. She later died at Kosair Children's Hospital. (Source: CNN)
A viewer-submitted photo of the Eagle Creek area in Alabama. (Source: WSFA) A viewer-submitted photo of the Eagle Creek area in Alabama. (Source: WSFA)
The remains of a home in Verbena, AL. (Source: WBRC) The remains of a home in Verbena, AL. (Source: WBRC)

HENRYVILLE, IN (RNN) - Police officers are stationed at every entrance of the Indiana town flattened in Friday's horrific storms that claimed the lives of at least 39 people, including the orphaned toddler found in a field in Pekin, IN.

Indiana State Police have staked out all entrances to Henryville, IN, to prevent looters and curious onlookers from causing mayhem or inconvenience to the residents there. The town has shifted from search and rescue mode to security.

In Harvest, AL, its shell-shocked residents are picking up the pieces of their homes and their lives for the second time in little more than 10 months after an EF2 tornado socked them along the same path as an EF4 tornado on April 27, 2011.

Those are but small snapshots of the death and destruction experienced by one-third of the nation last week. At least 52 people lost their lives in severe tornadic activity that spanned from south Alabama to Ohio.

From search and rescue to security

The EF-4 tornado that roared through Henryville packed winds of 175 mph at about 3 p.m. Friday, taking out the town's middle and high school and throwing buses and cars through buildings.

On Monday, the town was taking no chances with looky-Lou's or looters.

Indiana State Police Chief Sgt. Jerry Goodin issued a stern warning to anyone hoping to cause trouble in the town.

"We feel like we have everyone accounted for, so we've stopped the search and rescue," Goodin told WAVE3-TV. "We've got state officers, we've got county officers, we've even got city officers who've all volunteered to come down, and we've got the National Guard, and I'll just tell you this isn't the place to come for mischief because you're going to get caught."

A fence now surrounds what was left of a Henryville Junior-Senior High School, its students unsure where they will attend class. School officials will meet Thursday to try to determine how and where students will finish out the school year.

Down the street, though, copper and a cash register stand exposed, and a storage shed packed with supplies was crushed and left open to the elements. Churches have become shelter to those looking for a place to crash or a meal to eat.

Farther south, in Madison County, AL, sheriff's deputies made at least seven arrests for looting Friday night. Deputies also "made contact" with about 85 people after reports of suspicious activity, according to WAFF-TV in Huntsville.

But it was one little girl who captured the heart and hope of most people who were following the tornado tragedies in the media. Fifteen-month-old Angel Babcock, who was orphaned and lost her two siblings in the Pekin tornado, seemed to be a shining light of hope when she was found injured but alive - and alone - in a field.

Her extended family stood watch over the tiny girl clinging to life in a nearby hospital. But the child succumbed to her injuries and died Sunday afternoon. She gave a name and an innocent face to the dozens of souls who perished last week in storms stretching from Alabama to Ohio.

Friday's storms claimed 39 lives spanning five states: Kentucky: 21; Indiana: 13; Ohio: 3; Georgia: 1; and Alabama: 1.

No rest for the weary

Friday's storms capped a horrible week of deadly weather. In the first five days of March, weather forecasters have estimated about 120 reported tornadoes.

At least 48 tornadoes were spotted late Tuesday and early Wednesday in the Midwest, according to the National Weather Service, including one EF-4 tornado that struck Harrisburg, IL, and claimed six lives, injuring more than 100.

Five of the six who were killed were huddled in the same apartment complex. Three more were killed in Missouri, three in Tennessee and one in Kansas.

"Going out - and again - after looking at the debris field and looking at everything in the darkness, it was horrifying, but even more so when the sun came up," Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg told CNN. "You got a picture and you got your hands around what the track of this terrible storm did to the city of Harrisburg. We just hope that we never have to experience anything like this again."

The Illinois tornado was part of a dangerous storm system that roared through the Ohio River Valley region and injured hundreds across several states, including Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Kansas, Nebraska, Indiana and Tennessee.

On Wednesday, the National Weather Service began predicting that severe weather – likely to spawn tornadoes – was expected Friday over areas including the Ohio River Valley and Tennessee River Valley, as well as storms as far south as Mississippi and Alabama.

Three tornadoes that touched down in late afternoon in north Alabama kicked off Friday's round of deadly storms. In the first nine hours of Friday's storms, about 75 tornadoes were spotted.

Recovery deferred

In one of the cruelest twists of fate a small town in northern Alabama, Harvest, was slammed for the second time in less than a year by a destructive tornado.

"Last year two people died right there on that corner," restaurant owner Kim Shelton told CNN, referring to a nearby intersection in town.

Friday's EF2 tornado took almost the identical path as the EF5 tornado that struck the town on April 27, 2011. Little more than 10 months later, many are still rebuilding from what last year's storms took away.

The 125 mph winds ripped off roofs, took out new construction and flung belongings a second time.

According to the National Weather Service, six separate tornadoes ripped through northern Alabama on Friday. Seven people were injured in those storms, and as many as 200 homes were damaged or destroyed.

"It's hard, but I am going to rebuild," Harvest resident Vince Thompson told FOX News. "I would never have gambled that this would have happened again."

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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