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Snow, cold add to tornado survivors' misery

Survivors try to reclaim a sense of normalcy after the severe weather that killed more than a dozen people in Indiana alone. NBC's Lester Holt reports.

Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET
HENRYVILLE, Ind. -- Snow and even colder weather added to the misery across parts of twister-hit Indiana and Kentucky on Monday, where thousands were still without power, hundreds lost their homes and the cleanup was just beginning.

Several inches had fallen by midday, after a Sunday that included a mix of snow and rain.

In Henryville, where a 175 mph tornado ripped through town on a 52-mile-long tear, the snow added "an almost surreal quality to the destruction all around us," NBC's Lester Holt reported.


Indiana homeland security spokeswoman Emily Norcross said the snow would likely slow the cleanup effort because it covered debris and concealed potential hazards.

"It's slippery and it's hampering visibility on roads, so it's more difficult to see small debris like nails," Norcross said. "It's complicating things."

The fast-moving tornadoes that hit on Friday, numbering at least 30, came on top of severe weather earlier in the week in the Midwest and brought the overall death toll from the unseasonably early and violent storms to at least 52 people. The death toll from Friday's twisters stood at 40 on Monday afternoon.

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Adding to the despair, a toddler who had become a symbol of hope amid destruction after she was found alive in an Indiana field died of her injuries. The tornado that killed Angel Babcock also claimed the lives of her parents and her two siblings.

A man who was caught in the path of a tornado that ravaged his Indiana community speaks exclusively with TODAY's Ann Curry about trying to help save his neighbors and the guilt he says he feels about their deaths, including that of a baby.

"Angel has been reunited with her parents," the girl's extended family said in a statement.

A neighbor with whom the family had taken shelter told NBC's TODAY show that both his home and their home were obliterated by the twister.

Weather.com: Tornado outbreak -- As it happened

In Henryville, about 20 miles area north of Louisville, Ky., school was canceled for the week because of heavy damage to the education complex housing elementary through high school students.

Even so, small signs of normalcy slowly began to emerge.

Utility crews replaced downed poles and restrung electrical lines. Portable cell towers went up, and a truck equipped with batteries, cellphone charging stations, computers and even satellite television was headed to Henryville on Monday.

For every storm, there are the helping hands who bring food and volunteer time. NBC's Lester Holt learns this may be a human instinct.

"We're going to keep living," said the Rev. Steve Schaftlein during a Sunday service at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, where about 100 people gathered under a patched-up six-foot hole in the church's roof to worship and catch up on news of the tornado.

The violent storms raised fears that 2012 would be another bad year for tornadoes after 550 deaths were blamed on twisters last year, the deadliest year in nearly a century, according to the National Weather Service.

In hard-hit areas, National Guard troops manned checkpoints on roads and outside towns, and were inspecting identity documents of those seeking to enter damaged areas in Indiana and Kentucky following reports of looting. Long lines of cars waited at the entrances to some towns.

On Sunday afternoon, police stopped a vehicle on a back road that was trying to leave a home with a load full of stolen copper, said Albert Hale, emergency manager for Kentucky's Laurel County.

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Authorities have also caught people stealing scrap metal and trailers full of animals, and security personnel in Kentucky's Menifee County spent Saturday collecting weapons from destroyed homes to secure them from possible looters, a sheriff's official said.

"I've been through enough disasters to know that people see these situations as an opportunity to come take what they want," said Richard Franklin, chief deputy of the Menifee County sheriff's office. He said looters came from as far away as Ohio.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear urged spectators and unsolicited volunteers to stay out of the way so emergency responders could do their jobs.

Beshear described the scene in the hard-hit town of West Liberty as one of "total devastation" and signed an executive order barring price gouging for food and other necessities.

Businesses in West Liberty were so damaged by Friday's storm that they will have to come down. NBC's Mike Bettes reports.

"It looked like a bomb had been dropped in the middle of town," he said of West Liberty. "Buildings had the walls standing and the roof gone. It was a terrible sight. It's going to be a long, long time to get that town on its feet."

President Barack Obama has called the governors of Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky to offer condolences and assure them the federal government was ready to help if needed.

Even with life upended in so many ways, one family got a reminder that a deadly tornado can't uproot everything.

The home that Shalonda Kerr shares with her husband and Jack Russell terrier outside of Chelsea, Ind., was obliterated: The front wall was ripped clean, leaving the home looking eerily like a shaken dollhouse. An upended couch and a tipped-over fish tank lay in the rubble.

The mailbox was untouched. Its front hatch was tipped open, revealing a white piece of paper.

"Inside was a $300 IRS bill," Kerr said, laughing amid the ruins.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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