Snow blankets tornado rubble, complicating cleanup

CNN Wire Service

WEST LIBERTY, Kentucky (CNN) — Snow fell in parts of Kentucky and Indiana Monday, blanketing the shards of glass, splintered wood and twisted metal that a series of vicious twisters left behind last week.

About three inches of snow fell overnight in West Liberty, Kentucky, and flakes were still coming down Monday morning.

The conditions complicated cleanup efforts. Roads were slick as crews worked to restore power in tornado-ravaged areas.

A fresh blanket of snow also covered storm debris in Henryville, Indiana, where residents were just beginning to pick up the pieces after two tornadoes hit the town, including an EF-4 twister, with winds of up to 200 mph.

The tornado outbreak began Friday and extended into the next day, affecting millions of people from Indiana to Georgia. At least 42 tornadoes swept across 10 states on Friday, the National Weather Service said.

By the time the powerful storm system faded, 39 were dead: 21 in Kentucky, 13 in Indiana, three in Ohio, and one each in Alabama and Georgia.

The tornadoes paralyzed a large part of eastern Kentucky, where officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were slated to begin assessments Monday.

“The damage I saw yesterday was the worst I’ve seen. … It was a war zone, debris everywhere, buildings destroyed, other buildings just the walls standing, roofs gone. It was a terrible sight,” Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told reporters Sunday, describing his visit to the tornado-ravaged town of West Liberty.

As the focus turned to caring for survivors whose lives were turned upside down by the storm, hundreds of National Guard troops were deployed, while good Samaritans donated what they could.

“When something like this happens, everybody wants to … pull together, to help each other out. That’s what it’s all about.,” volunteer Victor Jett said.

Indiana State Police Sgt. Jerry Goodin said the destruction left authorities there with “no idea how many people are left homeless.”

Beshear said Sunday that he was requesting an expedited disaster declaration from President Barack Obama.

In Henryville, about 20 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky, the EF-4 tornado destroyed schools, homes and businesses, leaving many parts of the town unrecognizable, Kevin Welz told CNN’s iReport.

“It is something you would expect to see in an end-of-the-world movie,” he said.

A toddler who had survived the storm in Salem, about 20 miles west of Henryville, died Sunday afternoon after family members took her off life support, Jefferson County Coroner Bob Jones said.

The 14-month-old girl had been in critical condition, surrounded by extended family members at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, said hospital spokesman Brian Rublein. Her immediate family — including her parents, 3-year-old brother and 2-month-old sister — were all killed in the storm.

In addition to the dead, hospitals continued to treat scores suffering from major trauma to minor injuries related to sudden ferocious spurts of high winds, powerful hail and drenching rains.

Residents and officials across the tornado-damaged areas said they were committed to rebuilding their communities.

Beshear said residents in West Liberty and other parts of his state were showing their resilience.

“It’s going to be a long, long time to get that town back on its feet, but somehow or another I know they’ll want to do it, I know they will do it, and we’re going to help them do it,” he said.

— CNN’s Rob Marciano, Chris Welch, Susan Candiotti, Jacqui Jeras and Nicole Saidi contributed to this report.