Three children and one woman were killed Saturday in powerful storms that swept across the southern U.S., authorities said.
In Texas two children, ages 8 and 3, died when a tree fell on a car Saturday afternoon, trapping them inside, according to the Angelina County Sheriff’s Department. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
In West Monroe, Louisiana, a 13-year-old boy drowned in a drainage area in what officials believe was a weather-related incident, said Glen Springfield, spokesman for the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office. Several streets had been closed in the city of around 13,000 and a flood warning had been issued for the area, officials said.
A fourth person who died in the storms was a woman killed by weather-related debris near the community of Weches in Houston County, Texas, the sheriff’s office said. The age of the woman was not released. Weches is west of Nacogdoches.
In Franklin, Texas, a tornado touched down and destroyed homes Saturday, injuring about a dozen people described as walking wounded and sending two people to the emergency room, Robertson County Sheriff Gerald Yezak said.
“A strip of homes on the other side of town over here are completely gone, just gone, everything is gone,” Robertson County Emergency Management Coordinator Billy Huggins said.
The National Weather Service’s Fort Worth office tweeted that after a preliminary damage assessment, the tornado in Robertson County was estimated to have a peak intensity of EF-3 with winds of 140 mph. The damage survey will continue over the next several days, the service said.
Huggins said he got a call from the National Weather Service around 11:20 a.m. about a storm system that was on the ground and headed towards Franklin. “We started trying to get people activated to get eyeballs on it, and by then the thing was moving fast and it went right through town,” he said.
The weather service said severe thunderstorms from east Texas to Arkansas were possible Saturday, and the threat of severe weather will then affect the Ohio Valley into the southeastern U.S. on Sunday.
Angelina County is around 120 miles north of Houston, and Franklin, a town of about 1,500, is about 110 miles northwest of Houston.
In Alto, Texas, Marry Lamar with the volunteer fire department said a suspected tornado touched down Saturday, and several people were injured. The front wall of a gym at a school was blown off as were windows and doors at a fire house, Lamar said.
Video posted on social media showed trees and power lines down and homes damaged in the town of just over 1,200 people.
Meteorologist John Moore said a possible twister touched down Saturday in the Vicksburg, Mississippi, area, the Associated Press reported. No injuries were reported, but officials said several businesses and vehicles were damaged.
Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. told NBC affiliate WLBT the storms “just came in all at once” with heavy winds and rain.
“It was like it was a war zone; I’ve never seen nothing like it my life,” Flaggs told the station.
“It looked like everyone was safe,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. We’ve been blessed. What we’re going to do now is begin to recover.”
He said power crews were working to restore electricity to around 1,700 customers, and he asked people to not panic and to use caution when using alternate power sources like generators.
A meteorologist with Alabama’s emergency management agency warned that “supercells and potential tornadoes” could enter the western part of the state Sunday.
“Unfortunately, the western half of the state may have a few tornadoes before sunrise while many people are in bed,” meteorologist Jim Stefkovich said in a statement.
In Roberston County, Texas, the damage in Franklin was called “devastating” by Huggins, the emergency management coordinator. He said that everyone has been accounted for.
“To this small town of Franklin, it’s very devastating, how we’re going to get people help to restore their homes that don’t have insurance or what have you, it’s going to be pretty difficult,” he said. “It’s going to be a little difficult putting it back together, but we’ll do it.”
(Reporting by NBC News)
Strong Storms in US South Kill 8, Injure Dozens
(AP) — Powerful storms swept across the South on Sunday after unleashing suspected tornadoes and flooding that killed at least eight people, injured dozens and flattened much of a Texas town. Three children were among the dead.
Nearly 90,000 customers were without electricity in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Georgia as of midday Sunday, according to www.poweroutage.us as the severe weather left a trail of destruction.
Two children were killed on a back road in East Texas when a pine tree fell onto the car in which they were riding in a severe thunderstorm Saturday near Pollok, about 150 miles (241 kilometers) southeast of Dallas.
The tree “flattened the car like a pancake,” said Capt. Alton Lenderman of the Angelina County Sheriff’s Office. The children, ages 8 and 3, were dead at the scene, while both parents, who were in the front seat, escaped injury, he said.
At least one person was killed and about two dozen others were injured after a suspected tornado struck the Caddo Mounds State Historic Site in East Texas during a Native American cultural event in Alto, about 130 miles (209 kilometers) southeast of Dallas. Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis said the fatality that was reported was of a woman who died of her critical injuries.
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In neighboring Houston County, the sheriff’s office said one person was killed in Weches, 6 miles southwest of Caddo Mound.
There was widespread damage in Alto, a town of about 1,200, and the school district canceled classes until its buildings can be deemed safe.
A tornado flattened much of the south side of Franklin, Texas, overturning mobile homes and damaging other residences, said Robertson County Sheriff Gerald Yezak. Franklin is about 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of Dallas.
The weather service said preliminary information showed an EF-3 tornado touched down with winds of 140 mph (225.3 kph).
It destroyed 55 homes, a church, four businesses, a duplex, and part of the local housing authority building, authorities said. Two people were hospitalized for injuries that were not thought to be life-threatening, while others were treated at the scene, Yezak said. Some people had to be extricated from damaged dwellings.
Heavy rains and storms raked Mississippi into the night Saturday as the storms moved east.
Roy Ratliff, 95, died after a tree crashed onto his trailer in northeastern Mississippi, Monroe County Road Manager Sonny Clay said at a news conference, adding that a tornado had struck. Nineteen residents were taken to hospitals, including two in critical condition. A tornado was reported in the area 140 miles (225 kilometers) southeast of Memphis, Tennessee, at the time.
In Hamilton, Mississippi, 72-year-old Robert Scott said he had been sleeping in his recliner late Saturday when he was awakened and found himself in his yard after a tornado ripped most of his home off its foundation.
His 71-year-old wife, Linda, was in a different part of the house and also survived, he said. They found each other while crawling through the remnants of the house they have lived in since 1972.
“We’re living, and God has blessed us,” Scott, a retired manager for a grocery store meat department, said Sunday as neighbors helped him salvage his belongings.
National Weather Service meteorologist John Moore said a possible twister touched down in the Vicksburg, Mississippi, area. No injuries were reported, but officials reported damage to several businesses and vehicles.
The storm damaged a roof of a hotel in New Albany, Mississippi, and Mississippi State University’s 21,000 students huddled in basements and hallways as a tornado neared the campus in Starkville.
University spokesman Sid Salter said some debris, possibly carried by the tornado, was found on campus, but no injuries were reported and no buildings were damaged. Trees were toppled and minor damage was reported in residential areas east of the campus.
The large storm system also caused flash floods in Louisiana, where two deaths were reported.
Authorities said 13-year-old Sebastian Omar Martinez drowned in a drainage canal after flash flooding struck Bawcomville, near Monroe, said Deputy Glenn Springfield of the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Department. Separately, one person died when a car was submerged in floodwaters in Calhoun, also near Monroe.
As the storm moved into Alabama, a possible tornado knocked out power and damaged mobile homes in Troy, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Montgomery.
Near the Birmingham suburb of Hueytown, a county employee died after being struck by a vehicle while he was helping clear away trees about 2:15 a.m. Sunday, said Capt. David Agee of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. The man, whose name was not immediately released, died after being taken to a hospital.
The forecast of severe weather forced officials at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, to start the final round of the tournament early on Sunday in order to finish in midafternoon before it began raining.
36 Tornadoes Occurred In Southeast Tornado Outbreak
BEAUREGARD, Ala. (AP) — The number of tornadoes confirmed to have touched down in a deadly weekend outbreak across the Southeast has risen to at least 36.
Survey teams for the National Weather Service found evidence of the twisters in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
The most powerful was an E4 tornado blamed for killing 23 people Sunday in rural Lee County, Alabama. Its destructive winds reached 170 mph (274 kph) as it carved a path of destruction nearly a mile wide. The tornado trekked nearly 70 miles (113 kilometers) from western Alabama into Georgia after crossing the Chattahoochee River at the state line.
All of the tornado deaths were in Alabama, though several people in Georgia were injured.
23 People Killed So Far In Deadly Southeastern Tornado Outbreak
BEAUREGARD, Ala. (AP) — Rescuers searched for victims Monday amid homes smashed to their foundations, shredded metal dangling from trees and dead animals lying in the open after a tornado ripped through a rural Alabama community and killed at least 23 people, including children.
Traveling straight down a county road, the twister carved a trail of destruction at least half a mile wide and about a mile long Sunday, overwhelming the Lee County coroner’s office, which was forced to call in help from the state.
“It looks like someone almost just took a giant knife and scraped the ground,” Sheriff Jay Jones said.
With daybreak, volunteers used chain saws to clear paths for emergency workers, and at the R&D Grocery, people were constantly asking each other if they were OK.
“I’m still thanking God I’m among the living,” said John Jones, who has lived most of his life in Beauregard, an unincorporated community of roughly 10,000 people about 60 miles east of Montgomery near the Georgia state line.
The twister, with winds believed to be around 160 mph (257 kph) or higher, was part of a powerful storm system that slashed its way across the Deep South, spawning numerous tornado warnings in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.
“All we could do is just hold on for life and pray,” said Jonathan Clardy, who huddled with his family inside their Beauregard trailer as the tornado ripped the roof off. “It’s a blessing from God that me and my young’ns are alive.”
He added: “Everybody in Beauregard is a real close-knit family. Everybody knows everybody around here. Everybody is heartbroken.”
The sheriff said children were among the dead, but he didn’t know how many. And he said the death toll may rise as the search continues amid houses reduced to their concrete slabs.
Levi Baker took a chain saw to help clear a path for ambulances and other emergency vehicles. He said he saw dead people and animals and demolished houses, with one home swept off its foundation and left in the middle of a road.
Along the hard-hit country road, giant pieces of metal from a farm building dangled from pine branches 20 feet (6 meters) in the air, making loud creaking sounds as the wind blew. For an entire mile down the road, pines were snapped in half.
A mobile home crushed by two trees marked the end of the path of destruction.
The National Weather Service said the tornado was rated an F3, which means wind speeds of 158 mph to 206 mph (254 to 331 kph).
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