Rescuers Dig Through Debris In Search of Storm Victims

PICHER, Okla. — Crews and search dogs hunted Sunday for survivors or bodies in piles of debris after tornadoes and storms a day earlier killed at least 22 people in three states.

At least six people died in Picher, once a bustling mining center of 20,000 that dwindled to about 800 people as families fled lead pollution there, and officials held out hope that they wouldn't find any more bodies.

Residents said the tornado created a surreal scene as it tore through town Saturday afternoon, injuring about 150 people, overturning cars, damaging dozens of homes and throwing mattresses and twisted metal high into the canopy of trees.

"I swear I could see cars floating," said Herman Hernandez, 68. "And there was a roar, louder and louder."

Ed Keheley was headed to town to help out Saturday night when he heard a woman screaming. He looked over to see her hand reaching out of debris.

"She was sitting in the bathtub, she had curlers in her hair and she wanted out of there," said Keheley, who along with several others pulled her out.

The same storm system then moved into southwestern Missouri, where tornadoes killed at least 15 people.

The system moved eastward; on Sunday, storms in Georgia killed at least one person.

High winds in North Carolina destroyed several mobile homes in the Belgrade and Maysville community on the Jones-Onslow county line, but there was no word on injuries, said Patty McQuillan of the state police.

In Seneca, Mo., about 20 miles southeast of Picher near the Oklahoma state line, crews on Sunday combed farm fields looking for bodies and survivors. Ten of the dead were killed when a twister struck near Seneca.

Nineteen people were hospitalized in Newton County, which includes Seneca, said Keith Stammer, acting spokesman for the county's emergency operations. He did not know the extent of their injuries.

Susie Stonner, a Missouri emergency management spokeswoman, said Newton County officials had initial estimates of 50 homes damaged or destroyed there.

Killer storms

Tornadoes and storms killed at least 22 people in three states on Saturday.

"The federal government will be moving hard to help," President Bush said. "I'll be in touch with the governors and offer all of the federal assistance we can."

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