Vicious storms hit the Deep South of the United States and toppled trees like dominoes as tornadoes howled through towns. Four deaths were reported yesterday in Alabama, including a man killed when the storm tossed a mobile home nearly a quarter of a mile across a state highway.
Combined with earlier reported fatalities in Arkansas and Oklahoma, the confirmed death toll had risen to 13 by this morning — the deadliest storm of the season so far.
Autauga County Chief Deputy Sheriff Joe Sedinger said three adult family members were killed around 11pm last night when a tornado ripped through homes in the Boone's Chapel community 24 miles north of the state capital of Montgomery.
"The tornado hit and jumped and hit and jumped again," Sedinger said. "It would do some damage and then move on."
The system showed no mercy on Mississippi either as it rolled eastward, damaging or destroying dozens of homes, businesses and churches. Crews worked to clear roads, find shelter for displaced families and restore power to thousands.
In Marengo County in west-central Alabama, four separate tornadoes hit over the span of about five to six hours, emergency management director Kevin McKinney said.
"They weren't simultaneous, they were back-to-back," he said.
The mobile home that had been tossed was a pile of rubble, along with another 30 homes or businesses that were destroyed, McKinney said. Four people had minor injuries.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency for the entire state, and the first race of a busy weekend at the Talladega Superspeedway was postponed until Saturday morning.
The storms began late Thursday in Oklahoma, where at least five tornadoes touched down and two people were killed. The system then pushed into Arkansas, killing seven more. Dozens of others were hurt.
By midday yesterday, the storms had marched into Tennessee, Louisiana and later into Georgia. At least three twisters touched down in Mississippi, where a state of emergency was declared in 14 counties, causing widespread damage but only one serious injury.
The hardest hit was Clinton, a city of about 26,000 people just west of Jackson, the state capital. At least seven people were taken by ambulance to hospitals with injuries.