E-mails, computer log shed light on response to Feb. 5 tornados - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

E-mails, computer log shed light on response to Feb. 5 tornados

Damage at Union University caused by severe storms on February 5, 2008. Damage at Union University caused by severe storms on February 5, 2008.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The extent of damage from tornados in Tennessee began drawing into focus late on Feb. 5 as state emergency officials were notified of 10 deaths from around the state over a one-hour stretch.

By early the next morning, a chilling request from officials in what ended up being the worst-hit county was logged into the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency's computer system: "Macon County is requesting additional body bags."

The log entries and hundreds of e-mails were released as part of an Associated Press records request about the state response to the storms that killed nearly 60 people in Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. After striking a hopeful note early on, the exchange of messages turned more grim as the night wore on.

The first hint that severe weather was approaching was circulated in Gov. Phil Bredesen's office at 2:46 p.m. on Feb. 5, when several aides received a message from TEMA's executive officer, Chris King.

"Right now, we know there will be some strong storms this evening with a chance of all the bad stuff (Tornados, high winds, hail, etc.)," King wrote. "Hopefully we'll get just some strong winds and lightning."

Officials in Little Rock, Ark., were also closely monitoring the weather.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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