Woman dies dur­ing 911 flood­ing call; Delta death also re­ported

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS AND JAY REEVES

JACK­SON, MISS. | A Mis­sis­sippi woman who des­per­ately tried to di­rect res­cuers to her sink­ing ve­hi­cle af­ter it skid­ded into a rain-swollen creek was among four peo­ple killed in storms across the South.

Jac­que­line Wil­liams, 52, ran off a road into a creek in Florence be­fore dawn Mon­day and di­aled 911 from the car as it went down, said Rankin County Coroner David Ruth.

Mr. Ruth said Ms. Wil­liams, who lived in Florence, was try­ing to re­lay her lo­ca­tion to a dis­patcher as the car set­tled into the swirling wa­ters.

“She was try­ing to tell the dis­patcher where she was, and she could ac­tu­ally hear the sirens,” Mr. Ruth said.

The two lost con­tact, and Mr. Ruth said a swift-wa­ter re­cov­ery team later found Ms. Wil­liams’ body in the creek out­side the car.

Florence Police Chief Richard Thomas told WJTV that the cur­rent where Ms. Wil­liams died was fast and strong.

Chief Thomas said au­thor­i­ties got a call from a woman say­ing her car was be­ing swept off into the wa­ter around 4 a.m. Au­thor­i­ties im­me­di­ately be­gan look­ing but couldn’t find her in time.

“It was re­ally quick,” Chief Thomas said.

The woman’s body was even­tu­ally re­cov­ered, but Chief Thomas said au­thor­i­ties were wait­ing for the wa­ters to re­cede so they could re­cover the ve­hi­cle.

Florence is a town of about 4,000 peo­ple.

“Our kids played base­ball to­gether,” Chief Thomas said. “Words don’t de­scribe. They’re re­ally good peo­ple.”

In the tiny Mis­sis­sippi Delta town of Glen­dora, the mayor’s wife died Sun­day when strong winds top­pled a tree onto the cou­ple’s house. Mayor Johnny B. Thomas was briefly hos­pi­tal­ized with in­juries af­ter his wife, Shirley, was killed, said town clerk Aquar­ius Sim­mons.

“She was a nice lady. Very sweet. Ev­ery­body loved her,” Ms. Sim­mons said of Shirley Thomas.

Two other peo­ple died ear­lier in Louisiana.

Fore­cast­ers said tor­na­does and strong winds were likely from Mis­sis­sippi to South Carolina. The great­est tor­nado risk was cen­tered over south­ern Alabama, the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice’s Storm Pre­dic­tion Cen­ter in Ok­la­homa said.

Some schools in Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi and Alabama can­celed or de­layed the start of classes Mon­day so stu­dents wouldn’t travel in heavy rain or on flooded streets.

Fore­cast­ers said about 3 inches of rain al­ready had fallen in parts of western Alabama. Alabama Power said more than 27,000 homes and busi­nesses were with­out elec­tric­ity.

By Mon­day morn­ing, the worst of the weather to hit Louisiana had passed through but left pock­ets of tor­nado dam­age and flood­ing.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Ed­wards signed a statewide emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion Mon­day be­fore em­bark­ing on a trip to sur­vey storm dam­age in two cen­tral and south­ern parishes.

Some of the heav­i­est rains fell in cen­tral Louisiana from Sun­day into early Mon­day. C.S. Ross, a Na­tional Weather Ser­vice hy­drol­o­gist in Shreve­port, said nearly 8 inches of rain was re­ported in Grant Par­ish in the north cen­tral part of the state.

A tor­nado flipped a mo­bile home Sun­day in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, killing a mother and her 3-year-old daugh­ter. The storm also brought hur­ri­cane-force winds, large hail and sparked flash flood­ing. Up to 6 inches of rain fell in some ar­eas.

Breaux Bridge is about 50 miles west of Ba­ton Rouge.

St. Martin Par­ish Sher­iff’s Of­fice spokes­woman Maj. Ginny Hig­gins told The As­so­ci­ated Press that the tor­nado touched down sec­onds af­ter a warn­ing was is­sued.

“It hit the trailer, flipped it and tore its side off,” Maj. Hig­gins said.

Maj. Hig­gins said 38-year-old Francine Gotch and 3-year-old Ne­vaeh Alexan­der were pro­nounced dead at the scene. Wit­nesses told KLFY-TV that the fa­ther was at the store when the storm hit and re­turned to find the bod­ies amid the splin­tered de­bris.

Rel­a­tives de­scribed those killed as a fun-lov­ing pair who smiled fre­quently.

Ne­vaeh “was the sweet­est lit­tle girl,” said Sh­eryle Ru­bin, who’s en­gaged to the girl’s un­cle. “She was only 3 years old but was the smartest girl in the world. She would’ve started school in Au­gust.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, a woman and her daugh­ter were killed when a tor­nado flipped their trailer on its side. Other deaths in the South were re­ported due to storms.

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