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12 Dead As Southern Storms Continue

A day after tornadoes killed 12 people in Tennessee, storms swept through the parts of Georgia and Alabama early Saturday morning, causing "tornado-like" damage to homes and businesses in densely-populated suburbs, officials said.

Authorities said the storms damaged homes and businesses in Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Hall counties in Georgia, as well as Alabama. No injuries were reported in Georgia.

"The damage I've seen definitely looks like a tornado," Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine said. "We've had a lot of damage. Several businesses are totally destroyed. Trees literally are sitting inside of houses."

In Roswell, a car wash was destroyed and windows in other nearby businesses were broken. Across the street, a longtime convenience store and gas station also sustained damage.

Oxendine said Georgia officials are waiting to determine whether the National Weather Service rules the Georgia damage was caused by tornadoes.

The severe weather threatened to delay action at the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club. Thunderstorms moved over the course Saturday morning, and there were bursts of rain even as the first few groups teed off in the third round.

About 36,000 customers lost electricity in the metro Atlanta area. Another 8,000 in northwest Georgia had no power, said Georgia Power spokesman Tal Wright. National Weather Service meteorologist Kristina Sumrall in Birmingham said Saturday there were no reported storm-related deaths.

She said several tornado sightings were reported about 10:43 p.m. Friday in the Huntsville area. In Tuscumbia, a barn was blown away.

Two people were seriously injured when trees fell on a vehicle in Hamilton in northwest Alabama. The Windwood Hotel in Haleyville had major damage, Sumrall said.

Meanwhile, Tennessee residents labored Saturday to begin rebuilding a day after tornadoes killed 12 people, the second wave of violent weather to hit the state in less than a week.

While families of last week's tornado victims in the western counties of Dyer and Gibson planned funerals for this weekend, many residents of Sumner County began picking through newly flattened homes and mangled cars.

Talmadge Woodall, 81, described the twister that destroyed his house Friday afternoon as "rolling, throwing debris hundreds of feet in the air." He lived in an upscale subdivision of Gallatin, about 24 miles northeast of Nashville, where three bodies were found.

"These were at least half-million-dollar homes or better," he said. "Now there's nothing left. I didn't even have a shingle off my house."

The storm leveled at least five houses in the neighborhood to their hardwood floors. Aerial TV footage showed a tornado carved a destructive path, with serious damage to dozens more homes.

Fire crews worked Friday evening with backhoes and heavy equipment to clear debris and used dogs to search for people trapped in the rubble.

Weather officials said tornadoes were spotted in about 10 Tennessee counties, but the worst damage appeared to be in the suburbs northeast of Nashville.

Eight people died in Sumner County and three deaths were reported in Warren County, about 65 miles southeast of Nashville. Warren County Executive Kenneth Rogers said the people killed there were found inside destroyed mobile homes.

One storm witness from Dickson County told CBS affiliate WTVF in Nashville, "It come right over me. ... I heard the storm coming, I went down to the creek bed, and I hunkered down. ... It was gone as quick as it come."

At Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, several people received cuts and abrasions from the storm. Several cars were also damaged in the parking lot of the college and some of the school's buildings were heavily damaged.

There were no major injuries reported at the college, but
emergency workers were searching all the buildings on campus to find any students who have not been accounted for, WTVF reports.
Hospitals admitted at least 60 people with storm-related injuries and transferred at least nine critically injured patients to Nashville hospitals. Hendersonville Medical Center, south of Gallatin, was running on emergency power after the storm and admitted 20 patients.

Downtown Nashville was spared any damage, but the northern suburb of Goodlettsville took a heavy hit, said Molly Sudderth, spokeswoman for the Nashville mayor's office.

She said there were reports of damage to 55 homes, seven businesses and a church in Goodlettsville.

Nashville Electrical Service reported hundreds of electrical lines down and power outages for up to 16,000 customers, mostly in Goodlettsville. The number of power outages was down to 3,060 early Saturday, officials said.

The number of tornadoes in the United States has jumped dramatically through the first part of 2006 compared with the past few years, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

Through the end of March, an estimated 286 tornadoes had hit the United States, compared with an average of 70 for the same three-month period in each of the past three years.

The number of tornado-related deaths was 38 before Friday's storms. The average number of deaths from 2003 to 2005 was 45 a year, the prediction center said.

Dan McCarthy, with the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said the number of storms and deaths this season seems high because the past few years have been unusually mild.

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