Drought, flood, fire and now kil­ler storms

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By Jay Reeves

BIRM­ING­HAM, ALA. >> Tor­na­does that dropped out of the night sky killed five peo­ple in two states and in­jured at least a dozen more early Wed­nes­day, adding to a seem­ingly bib­li­cal onslaught of drought, flood and fire plagu­ing the South.

The storms tore through just as fire­fight­ers be­gan to get con­trol of wild­fires that killed seven and wiped out more than 150 homes and busi­nesses around the resort town of Gatlin­burg, Ten­nessee. In Alabama, the weather sys­tem dumped more than 2 inches of rain in ar­eas that had been parched by months of chok­ing drought.

At least 10 con­firmed twisters dam­aged homes, splin­tered barns and top­pled trees in parts of Alabama, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi and Ten­nessee, the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice said. Tomb­stones were even knocked over in the ceme­tery be­hind the badly dam­aged Ros­alie Bap­tist Church, near where three peo­ple died in north­east­ern Alabama.

“It looks like the rap­ture hap­pened up there,” said church mem­ber Steve Hall, re­fer­ring to the end-times be­lief of many Chris­tians.

“Are we think­ing the Lord is try­ing to get our at­ten­tion?” said the pas­tor, Roger Lit­tle.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice was as­sess­ing dam­age from mul­ti­ple pos­si­ble tor­na­does across the re­gion. At least five hit Alabama, and three more struck south­ern Ten­nessee, and one each was con­firmed in Louisiana and Mis­sis­sippi, fore­cast­ers said.

A pos­si­ble tor­nado was spot­ted on the ground Wed­nes­day a few miles from At­lanta, and flights were briefly de­layed at the city’s main air­port, but no ma­jor dam­age oc­curred.

Three peo­ple were killed and one per­son crit­i­cally in­jured in a mo­bile home af­ter an ap­par­ent twister hit tiny Ros­alie, about 115 miles north­east of Birm­ing­ham, said Jack­son County Chief Deputy Rocky Har­nen.

A sus­pected tor­nado was re­spon­si­ble for the death of a hus­band and wife in south­ern Ten­nessee’s Polk County, while an un­known num­ber of oth­ers were in­jured, said Ten­nessee Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency spokesman Dean Flener. No de­tails were im­me­di­ately avail­able.

Shirley Knight, whose fam­ily owns a small propane busi­ness in Ros­alie, said the storm crashed in on them in the mid­dle of the night. Day­break re­vealed man­gled sheets of metal, in­su­la­tion and a lad­der hang­ing in trees.

“We had a plaza, a ser­vice sta­tion and sev­eral build­ings con­nected to­gether, and it’s all gone,” said Knight, adding that the storm also de­stroyed a church and dam­aged build­ings at a nearby Christ­mas tree farm.

The same storm ap­par­ently hit a closed day care cen­ter in the com­mu­nity of Ider, in­jur­ing seven peo­ple, in­clud­ing three chil­dren who had left their mo­bile home to seek shel­ter, said An­thony Clifton, DeKalb County emer­gency man­age­ment direc­tor.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bent­ley is­sued a state of emer­gency be­cause of the storms.

Mean­while, thou­sands of peo­ple were with­out power, in­clud­ing up to 45,000 homes at one point in Alabama. Many schools dis­missed early in Alabama and Ge­or­gia to avoid hav­ing stu­dents on the road in buses as storms con­tin­ued to roll across the re­gion Wed­nes­day.

Teams from the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice con­firmed that at least two weak tor­na­does struck western Alabama, and me­te­o­rol­o­gist Kurt We­ber from Huntsville said they were as­sess­ing dam­age tracks from at least four other pos­si­ble tor­na­does.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Shay­lyn Jef­fery holds the build­ing owner’s dog “Pay­day” while out­side of the de­mol­ished Ros­alie Plaza Gro­cery where she had opened up a tee-shirt busi­ness one month ear­lier on Wed­nes­day in Ros­alie, Ala. A sus­pected tor­nado touched down in the area overnight.

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