Tornado toll surpasses 30
LOUISVILLE, Miss.—A dangerous storm system that spawned a chain of deadly tornadoes over three days flattened homes and businesses, forced frightened residents in more than half-a-dozen states to take cover, and left tens of thousands in the dark.
As the storm hopscotched across a large swath of the U.S., the overall death toll was more than 30—killed Sunday and Monday in a band stretching from Oklahoma to Alabama.
Others found their loved ones missing and their homes pulverized.
Along Mississippi Highway 397 on the eastern edge of Louisville, firefighters picked through the remains of mobile homes—searching for three people unaccounted for after a tornado tore through.
Twenty firefighters linked hands and waded through an area where wood frame homes also had been heavily-damaged.
Rescue workers stepped gingerly over downed power lines and trees that were snapped in half and stripped of branches.
The Louisville tornado caused water damage and carved holes in the roof of the Winston Medical Center.
The emergency room was evacuated.
“We thought we were going to be OK, then a guy came in and said, ‘It’s here right now,’” said Dr. Michael Henry, head of the emergency room.
“Then boom . . . it blew through.”
Republican state Sen. Giles Ward huddled in a bathroom with his wife, four other family members, and their dog as the tornado destroyed his two-storey brick house in Louisville and flipped his son-in-law’s SUV upside down onto the patio.
“For about 30 seconds, it was unbelievable,” Ward said.
“It’s about as awful as anything we’ve gone through.”
Officials said seven people died in Winston County, where Louisville is the county seat, with about 6,600 people.
Two others were reported dead, separately, in Mississippi when their vehicles were blown off roadways.
In Winston County, one of the victims was a woman who died in the day care centre she owned in Louisville, county coroner Scott Gregory said.
In Tupelo, a community of about 35,000 in northeastern Mississippi, every building in a two-block area was damaged, officials on the scene said.
This morning, a blanket of fog hung over the city as authorities switched from a search-and-rescue mission to clean-up duties.
In one residential neighbourhood, destroyed homes sat steps away from those left unscathed.
Crews cleared trees tangled with power lines, fixed cracked roadway signs, and removed debris from streets.
In Kimberly, Ala., about 20 miles north of Birmingham, a suspected tornado hit at a crossroads before midnight yesterday, tearing the A-shaped roof off the town’s Church of God.
This morning, the roof sat in a solid piece beside the red brick church.
The storm system is the latest onslaught of severe weather a day after a half-mile-wide tornado carved an 80-mile path of destruction through the suburbs of Little Rock, Ark., killing at least 15.
Tornadoes or severe storms also killed one person each in Oklahoma and Iowa on Sunday.