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At least one fatality as deadly storms sweep across state

/ Source: The Associated Press

One person was killed and 22 injured when a line of thunderstorms ripped apart homes, destroyed a campground, knocked over trees, flooded streets and left many in the state without power and picking up debris Monday.

A 7-year-old girl was killed when a wall at her grandparent's brick home collapsed under powerful winds in the Minor Hill area about 80 miles south of Nashville early Monday, said supervisor Dan Creasy of the Giles County Ambulance Service.

Creasy said debris made it nearly impossible to get the home. He said crews spent at least 20 minutes trying to get to the scene.

Trey Brannom of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency identified the girl as Katie Hardman.

Fran Chavez, a supervisor at the county's 911 center, said that the calls related to the storm began at 12:48 a.m.

"We have had a very long night and from what we can tell, we've had substantial damage in the southeastern part of the county," she said.

TEMA reported later that three homes and about three dozen farm buildings were destroyed in Giles County, and about 95 other homes were damaged.

The bulk of the injuries from the storms came further west, when the winds ripped apart a campground on the Tennessee River at Cerro Gordo in Hardin County, knocking over trees and sending a number of people to the hospital, officials said.

Roughly 25 camper trailers and three camp sites were destroyed at the Big River Camp site. Some of the trailers were blown into the Tennessee River, Brannom said.

"Primarily the damage that has been associated with this storm is consistent with straight line winds," he said.

Brannom said 22 were hospitalized from injuries in Hardin County.

In neighboring Wayne County seven mobile homes were destroyed and 47 other homes were damaged, he said.

Elsewhere, there were reports of downed trees and power outages, including 19,000 homes in the Chattanooga area, Brannom said.

The National Weather Service said a squall line moved through the state delivering high winds and hail about the size of golf balls. The storms dumped up to two inches of rain in just over an hour late Sunday and early Monday as they swept across the state.

Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Maryville and Cleveland all reported wind damage, Brannom said.

The National Weather Service said it thinks straight line winds in excess of 60 miles per hour are to blame for the damage, although forecasters didn't rule out a tornado. There were 23 tornado warnings issued overnight in Middle Tennessee.

"I'm not going to say there weren't any (tornadoes)," said National Weather Service forecaster Mark Rose. "We haven't had an opportunity to confirm any."

In the western part of the state near Memphis, several funnel clouds were reported, as was wind damage in several towns.

Appalachia residents in the far northeastern part of the state were evacuated because of rising waters, officials said.

"We're still trying to put this all together," Rose said.