Fierce storms destroy several homes in Tennessee

Lightning strikes over downtown in Knoxville, Tenn., on Sunday, July 27, 2014. Authorities say powerful storms crossing east Tennessee have destroyed several homes and damaged others. Saul Young, The Knoxville News Sentinel/AP

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Powerful storms raking across several states in the eastern U.S. on Sunday have destroyed at least 10 homes in Tennessee, and there were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries, authorities said.

Spokeswoman Gina Breeding with the office of emergency management in east Tennessee's Claiborne County told The Associated Press that searchers were going door to door amid the debris of ruined homes Sunday night in one particularly hard-hit community, Speedwell. She said the county sheriff and his wife safely took refuge in their basement when storms hit, destroying their home.

"He and his wife are both OK," Breeding said by telephone, adding law enforcement officials had set up a command post for operations and a school was opened for anyone left homeless to spend the night.

She said the county emergency management and homeland security office hadn't confirmed whether the destruction was the result of a possible tornado, but noted there were high winds, lightning and heavy thunderstorms in the region Sunday. She said the searches were the first priority and continued after nightfall.

"We are conducting door to door searches and there are power lines and trees down," she said by phone.

Dean Flener of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency in Nashville said the storms roughed up at least seven of the 36 counties in east Tennessee, dropping trees, power lines and even large hail in spots.

"I do know Tennessee has deployed some Tennessee Highway Patrol strike teams in some counties in east Tennessee, closing off roads," Flener told AP by phone. "You don't want people wandering into areas with damage."

Terry Getz, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the Morristown, Tennessee, office said forecasters would be trying to determine whether a tornado might have been responsible for the worst damage though nothing had been confirmed yet. He said the radar suggested the presence of supercell thunderstorms with strong updrafts and rotating winds inside the most potent storms.

"Even though we don't have a lot of information right now, I'm sure tomorrow people will get out and see damage," he said.

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