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Old March 2nd, 2007, 07:55 AM  
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Default Tornadoes path of destruction

ATLANTA (March 2) - A system of powerful storms packing tornadoes passed from Alabama into southwest Georgia, hitting a hospital and causing at least nine deaths statewide, a state official said early Friday.

High School Is Destroyed

Five people died Thursday when a high school building was torn open by the twister in the southern Alabama town of Enterprise, state Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Yasmie Richardson said.

The agency had said earlier that 17 people had died in the town, but later lowered the Alabama toll to seven, blaming initial miscommunication among officials.

"Enterprise has suffered major and widespread damage," said Gov. Bob Riley, who declared a state of emergency and sent 100 National Guard troops to the town.

Riley said rescue workers were still moving debris to search for survivors as night fell.

The storm, which swept through the Georgia Thursday night, caused six deaths in Baker County, according to a fire chief there, said Buzz Weiss of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

Weiss said he did not know if the six died in the same incident or not.

In Sumter County, home of former President Jimmy Carter , the main hospital received some storm damage and there were two fatalities and an undetermined number of injuries, Weiss said. He said it appeared that a tornado hit Sumter Regional Hospital in Americus but officials were unsure whether the injured and dead were inside the building at the time.

Hospital spokesman Ed Farr said by telephone that the building was struck by a tornado but that there was no time to discuss details.

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One of the tornadoes that ripped through Alabama Thursday hit a community in Wilcox County.

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Sumter County deputy sheriff Eric Brown said he could not confirm the fatalities but that the storms had knocked out power to the entire city and part of the rest of the county. He said there were injuries but he did not know how many.

There was one storm-related death and four injuries reported in Taylor County, Weiss said.

The burst of tornadoes was part of a larger line of thunderstorms and snowstorms that stretched from Minnesota to the Gulf Coast. Authorities in Alabama were blaming the storms for at least seven deaths in that state, including five at a school where a roof collapsed after being struck by a tornado. Authorities were still searching the debris early Friday for possible victims.

Authorities blamed a tornado for the death of a 7-year-old girl in Missouri, and twisters were reported in Kansas.

Weiss said the information on the Georgia deaths came from state emergency management field coordinators working with the Sumter County emergency management agency. He said he was not sure if the deaths were at the hospital but "they were associated with the tornado that struck the hospital."

Phoebe Putnam Memorial Hospital in Albany had taken in 42 patients who were evacuated from Sumter Regional Hospital, spokeswoman Jackie Ryan said.

"We also have reports of injuries in Muscogee County. We have no details on nature of injuries or the number," he said. A Taylor County sheriff's dispatcher said there was extensive storm damage in the county but the number of deaths or injuries was unknown.

Weiss said between 40 and 60 homes were damaged in Clay County, south of Muscogee along the Chattahoochee River on the Alabama line.

In Muscogee County, which is Columbus, the National Weather Service said a twister struck around 6 p.m.

The storm knocked out power to 15,000 homes in Columbus and another 3,200 across the Chattahoochee in Phenix City, Ala., damaged some buildings and toppled trees into streets.

In McDuffie County in east Georgia, a possible tornado damaged about 30 homes and destroyed a few mobile homes, county Emergency Management Agency Director Bruce Tanner said. There were some minor injuries but no serious injuries reported, he said early Friday.

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2007-03-01 13:19:07

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