CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Storm deaths reached 33 in Tennessee on Thursday after three waves of severe weather packing tornadoes hit an area stretching almost 200 miles along the state's eastern border overnight.
The deaths confirmed Thursday included nine each in Hamilton and Bradley counties, seven in Greene County, four in Bledsoe County, two in Johnson County, and one each in Sequatchie and Washington counties.
Gov. Bill Haslam was scheduled to visit the Apison community in Hamilton County and Cleveland later Thursday.
Search and rescue teams were still sifting through wreckage in the mountainous region of the state, which was hit with a barrage of pounding rain, strong winds and hail as a stormy spring continued with an angry vengeance
About 150 volunteers were assisting authorities searching the hard-hit Apison community in Hamilton County where eight people were killed. Amy Maxwell, Hamilton County public information officer, said more than 150 area residents were treated for injuries.
In southeastern Tennessee's Bradley County where storms killed nine people, 34-year-old Larry Manning stood outside the remains of his house Thursday describing how he and his mother heard howling winds and started running inside their house Wednesday night.
Manning said he was on his sofa watching media storm alerts but had not seen any indication that his Blue Spring Lane community was about the be slammed.
"There was nothing that seemed imminent," he said.
At least one neighbor was killed and the only remnants of a half dozen mobile homes across the road from Manning were twisted metal, overturned vehicles, snapped trees and wet personal belongings in the mud.
His mother, Linda Manning, said the noisy wind pummeled the house for several minutes.
"It seemed like forever," she said.
Rhonda Nelson, 46, and brother Duke Nelson, 50, live next door to each other in the Camp Creek area of Greene County. Rhonda Nelson was at work in Greeneville when the tornado hit, but her brother was at home.
He said he hid under a pool table as the storm tore apart his house. He was lucky to be in a part of the home that was not destroyed.
"I've never been that scared," he said. "It sounded like a train."
Rhonda Nelson's home was totally destroyed. On Thursday, she was sorting through the rubble for her belongings and had found some polaroid photos, a Bible and a set of kitchen knives. But she said the only important thing was that her brother was alive.
"He's still here. That's all that matters," she said. "Everything else may be gone, but he's still here. We can't replace him."
In Greene County, 21-year-old Brandi Davis surveyed the wreckage of her mobile home, picking up a few belongings from the yard where it used to sit.
The home was picked up and hurled across the street into her neighbor's back yard in the Camp Creek community, sitting against the foothills of the Cherokee National Forest. Davis was staying at a friend's house when the storm struck.
"I have family in town, but I lost everything," she said.
The heavy storms not only did damage in east Tennessee but have caused flooding across the state as well. Sequatchie County Emergency Management Director Rusty Cheatham said a man died after being swept away by a rushing stream in the Cartwright community. The victim's body was recovered after water carried him down the Cartwright Gulf around 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Hundreds of thousands were without power in Thursday. That included 300,000 Tennessee Valley Authority customers across Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, said Bill McCollum, the utility's chief operating officer.
Bobby Boyd of the National Weather Service in Nashville said that before this week Tennessee already had 14 tornadoes this year. The state's most devastating storm front hit on April 3-4 in 1974, killing 46.
Menno Schwartz, a contractor, said he had an appointment Thursday to meet the pastor of the Mt. Tabor Church in Greene County to discuss some recent hail damage to the building.
When he got there, he learned pastor Gene Harrison, who lived nearby, had been killed when his house was destroyed by the storm.
"I was supposed to be here to give a price on putting up vinyl siding," Schwartz said. "Now we're out here surveying the damage."
The small church in the Camp Creek community was standing, but its steeple had been ripped off as well as its porch. The church bell was perched precariously on the damaged roof.
Haslam will be joined on his tour of the area by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.
In Washington, D.C., Sen. Lamar Alexander said "as Tennesseans did after last year's floods, we will come together to start rebuilding."