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Deadly Tornadoes Devastate Southern States

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Let's hear an eyewitness account of some the tornados that struck much of the South yesterday. Various storms killed dozens of people in several states. The affected areas include Jackson, Tennessee, which is where Fay Graves manages a McDonald's restaurant. That's where we found her. Welcome to the program.

Ms. FAY GRAVES (Restaurant Manager): Good morning. How are you this morning?

INSKEEP: Doing fine, thanks very much. The question is how are you, and what was your day like yesterday?

Ms. GRAVES: Well, you know, our day was pretty good. They let the schools out yesterday about 1:00 o'clock, and was warning us that it was going to be bad weather. And the I guess the storm hit Jackson, Tennessee last night around six or 6:30.

INSKEEP: So did everybody go scrambling for shelter?

Ms. GRAVES: Yeah. We went - the sirens was going off, and they told us to take shelter right then and there.

INSKEEP: Now, it must have been this morning before you got a good look at the way things have changed.

Ms. GRAVES: Well, now, possibly, you know, after the storm had - went over, I had to come up to McDonald's because I had some crew and some managers up here, to let them know what had went on. So I was riding out towards north, and we -me and the kids got walking, and we saw where, you know, house roofs was down. A lot debris that was, you know, all over the highway. And power lines was down. And the Walgreen's which was on North Holland was destroyed, and Northside High School. And there was a Jackson Oaks Nursery home that was destroyed. Some - half of the property was destroyed, and they had, like, several buses out there trying to get those elder peoples in shelter at the civic center in Jackson.

INSKEEP: You're talking about miles and miles of damage, here?

Ms. GRAVES: Oh, yes. Yes.

INSKEEP: And when you say you saw roofs on the road, do you mean shingles or entire roofs?

Ms. GRAVES: It was the entire roof came off of some house. It was on - it was a subdivision. And as we was going on the main street, you know, there was a roof that was laying, you know, practically halfway into the street.

INSKEEP: So how are people trying to recover this morning?

Ms. GRAVES: Well, I really don't know, because I'm in to McDonald's this morning. But, you know, which we're - I think most people just want breakfast, because we still have a lot of power outage. I want to say about 5:30 or 6:00 o'clock last night, they had said that it was over 1,000 people that was down with no electricity.

INSKEEP: Oh, so the coffee maker isn't working, and people are coming in to see you.

Ms. GRAVES: Oh, yeah. They come in very big orders.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Oh, my goodness. And there must be a lot of conversation about the way that things have been affected.

Ms. GRAVES: Yes, a lot of people have, you know, just sitting around drinking coffee and just discussing, you know, why - how (unintelligible) it was last night.

INSKEEP: I imagine this has overtaken the election as a topic of conversation.

Ms. GRAVES: I'm thinking it probably has.

INSKEEP: Can I just ask one other thing? You said that you went walking along the roads for a while with your kids. How old are they?

Ms. GRAVES: My daughter Rasheed's(ph) 20, and then I have one that is 21. But, you know, we really couldn't get around to everything because, you know, a lot of debris had, like nails and stuff sticking up. And I was really just, you know, circling around the community, because, you know, that's where there's really most of the damage was, where, you know the part of town that we lived on.

INSKEEP: I hope that buzz in the background was not the sound of the coffee maker malfunctioning.

Ms. GRAVES: No. It is our compressor for our drink system.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Well, Fay Graves at McDonald's restaurant in Jackson, Tennessee, thanks very much telling us your story.

Ms. GRAVES: Okay, thank you. And you have a good day.

INSKEEP: And once again, tornados across the South have killed dozens of people in the last 24 hours. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.