Midwest Bracing for More Tornadoes as Region Reels | NECN

Midwest Bracing for More Tornadoes as Region Reels

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Forecast includes possibility of even stronger storms on Friday and Saturday (Published Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014)

    (NECN: NBC) - Places in the Midwest like Harrisburg, Ill., are bracing for more possible damage from tornadoes that may hit the area again.

    Tornadoes on Wednesday caused devastation in the region of the country known as "tornado Alley."

    Damaged communities tried to take advantage of the brief break in the weather Thursday, mindful of forecasts that severe storms were expected to roll through the region again sometime after midnight and linger into Friday.

    An Oklahoma meteorologist had warned that by Friday, both regions would again be "right in the bull's eye." But the National Weather Service's Jayson Wilson in Paducah, Ky., softened that dire outlook Thursday night, saying the likelihood of southern Illinois seeing another supercell - the kind that spawns a twister - Friday "is looking less and less."

    While still cautioning people in the region to remain vigilant, noting the unpredictability of severe storms, "if anything happens it will be an isolated cell here and there."

    "It will be the luck of the draw as far as where they develop," Wilson said. "If there's a bull's eye, it's moved farther east, smack in the center of Kentucky and dipping into the center portion of Tennessee. It's a massive circle, but nowhere in that circle is southern Illinois," which he said probably will see thunderstorms.

    "But the threat there doesn't seem as promised," he said.

    That outlook didn't matter much to Amanda Patrick, who lost her home Wednesday in the same twister that killed her beloved neighbors across Brady Street, the neighborhood where most of the fatalities occurred.

    "I don't know what to tell you other than I take it one moment, one day at a time," Patrick, 31, said a day after riding out the storm in the bathtub she barely was able to crawl into for shelter before the twister hit.

    She considers herself blessed, having thought the sirens that wailed as the tornado barreled down on her neighborhood was actually part of her dream. She awakened just minutes before the tornado hit and hours later couldn't stop sobbing over losing neighbors.

    "I'm not crying as much now. I'm here right now, standing," she said Thursday. "Now, I will get up every time I hear a siren."

    A couple blocks away, outside their four-bedroom home where two large oak trees still were atop the roof, Levi Fogle and Sarah Pearce had a sense of resignation and perhaps apathy about word that more storms were possible.

    The National Weather Service listed Wednesday's twister as an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. Scientists said it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph. To Pearce, it couldn't get much worse.

    "What more could any more of this do to my house?" said 21-year-old Pearce, who along with Fogle work at the local Walmart that has been shuttered due to damage. The twister left the couple and their three young daughters unscathed.

    "God held my house up, there's no doubt about that," she said as Fogle strummed a guitar, shaking it at times to jingle the glass fragments left inside the instrument from being in his car's backseat when the storm hit.

    Wednesday's storms spawned at least 16 tornados reported Wednesday from Nebraska and Kansas across southern Missouri to Illinois and Kentucky. The dead included one killed in the Missouri town of Buffalo and two dead in the state's Cassville and Puxico areas. A Harveyville, Kan., man suffered fatal injuries after his home collapsed on him, and three more people were killed in eastern Tennessee.

    In Tennessee, donated storage units were to be offered to families whose homes were damaged so they could protect possessions before the next round of storms.

    The brother-in-law of a woman who was killed said he found her under some debris and held her hand until paramedics arrived.

    George Jones and several relatives gathered Thursday at the shattered mobile home where Melissa Evans Beaty lived  outside the small city of Crossville, about 110 miles east of Nashville. He said Beaty was alive and asking about her grandchildren after the twister passed. The children were all right, but Beaty later died, and her husband, Ricky, was taken to a Knoxville hospital with a fractured pelvis and severe head trauma, Jones said.

    "We would give anything to have Lisa back," he added.

    The couple's home was destroyed, with pieces wrapped around nearby trees.

    Bunny Howe survived with her 9-year-old grandsons by climbing into a bathtub as she watched the wind pick up one of her horses in the backyard, then overturn part of a tractor-trailer in the front yard. That's when she got on top of the children and held the bathroom door shut with her feet.

    "Ma, what are we going to do?'" she recalled the children asking her.

    "We're going to pray," she told them.

    The tornado tore off a wall of the Howes' garage and knocked a tree onto the roof.

    After all that, Howe said, she's not overly concerned about storms predicted for Friday.

    "What's it going to do?" she said. "Take the rest of the house down?"

    (Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.)