Severe weather has swept across the U.S. South, killing at least 18 people and damaging hundreds of homes from Louisiana into the Appalachian Mountains. Many people spent part of the night early Monday sheltering in basements, closets and bathroom tubs as sirens wailed to warn of possible tornadoes.
The Chattanooga, Tenn., area and several counties in northwest Georgia appeared to be particularly hard-hit as well. At least 14 people were hospitalized in the Chattanooga area, where search and rescue teams from at least 10 fire departments were going door to door responding to more than 300 emergency calls for help, the fire department said.
Fire Chief Dewayne Bain of Murray County, Ga., told WAGA-TV that two mobile home parks were severely damaged, with five people killed and five others hospitalized after a narrow line of storms left an eight-kilometre-long path of destruction. Another person was killed when a tree fell on a home in Cartersville, Ga., the station reported.
Mississippi’s death toll rose to 11 early Monday, the state’s emergency management agency tweeted, promising details later in the morning.
In Arkansas, one person was killed when a tree fell on a home in White Hall, about 56 kilometres southeast of Little Rock, the Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management said.
The storms blew onward through the night, causing flooding and mudslides in mountainous areas, and knocking out power for about 750,000 people in a 10-state swathe ranging from Texas to Georgia up to West Virginia, according to poweroutages.us. The National Weather Service tallied hundreds of reports of trees down across the region, including many that punctured roofs and downed power lines.
Several apparent tornadoes spun up in South Carolina, where dozens of homes appeared damaged in a line from Seneca to Clemson. Emergency officials were working to open shelters in the North Carolina mountains, where up to 13 centimetres of rain fell in a few hours.
In southern Mississippi on Sunday, one person was killed in Walthall County, two were killed in Lawrence County and three were killed in Jefferson Davis County, state Emergency Management Agency director Greg Michel said. The deaths included a married couple — Lawrence County sheriff’s deputy, Robert Ainsworth, and a Walthall County Justice Court deputy clerk, Paula We, a Facebook post from the county sheriff’s office said.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency Sunday night after he said several tornadoes had struck the state.
“This is not how anyone wants to celebrate Easter,” Reeves said on Twitter. “As we reflect on the death and resurrection on this Easter Sunday, we have faith that we will all rise together.”
Storm system heading northeast
The National Weather Service advised that the storm front would blow into the mid-Atlantic states Monday, bringing potential tornadoes, wind and hail. News outlets reported downed trees, flooded streets and other damage in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia, but the National Weather Service hadn’t immediately confirmed additional tornado touchdowns.
Strong winds late Sunday toppled power lines and blew trees onto several houses in Clarksdale, Mississippi, trapping some people inside, Mayor Chuck Espy said.
“I know these are some tough times and I’m just asking everyone to stay prayed up,” Espy said.
There were no immediate reports of serious injuries in Louisiana, even though the storm damaged between 200 and 300 homes in and around the city of Monroe, Mayor Jamie Mayo told KNOE-TV. Flights were cancelled at Monroe Regional Airport, where airport director Ron Phillips told the News-Star the storm caused up to $30 million US in damage to planes inside a hangar.
In Alabama, lightning struck the Shoals Creek Baptist Church in Priceville, damaging the roof and steeple, Eddie Hicks of the Morgan County Emergency Management Agency told AL.com.