Storms take lives across South
Twisters hit Texas towns; dozens hurt
Storms swept across the South over the weekend, unleashing suspected tornadoes and flooding that killed at least eight people, injured dozens and flattened much of a Texas town. Three children were among the dead.
Nearly 90,000 customers were reported without electricity in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Georgia as of midday Sunday.
At least one person was killed and about two dozen others were injured after a suspected tornado struck the Caddo Mounds State Historic Site in east Texas during an American Indian cultural event Saturday afternoon in Alto, about 130 miles southeast of Dallas. County Judge Chris Davis of Cherokee County said the fatality was a woman.
In neighboring Houston County, the sheriff’s office said one person was killed in Weches, 6 miles southwest of Caddo Mound.
There was widespread damage in Alto, a town of
about 1,200 people, and the school district canceled classes until its buildings can be deemed safe.
A tornado Saturday morning flattened much of the south side of Franklin, Texas, overturning mobile homes and damaging other residences, said Robertson County Sheriff Gerald Yezak. Franklin is about 125 miles south of Dallas.
The National Weather Service said preliminary information showed that an EF3 tornado touched down in that area packing winds of 140 mph.
The tornado destroyed 55 homes, a church, four businesses, a duplex, and part of the local housing authority building, authorities said. Two people were hospitalized with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, and others were treated at the scene, Yezak said. Some people had to be extricated from damaged buildings.
On Saturday about 3 p.m., two children were killed on a back road in east Texas when a pine tree fell onto the car in which they were riding during a severe thunderstorm near Pollok, about 150 miles southeast of Dallas.
The tree “flattened the car like a pancake,” said Capt. Alton Lenderman of the Angelina County sheriff’s office. The children, ages 8 and 3, died at the scene. Both parents, who were in the front seat, escaped injury, he said.
Heavy rains and storms raked Mississippi late into the night Saturday as the storms moved east.
Roy Ratliff, 95, died after a tree crashed onto his trailer during a potential tornado late Saturday in northeastern Mississippi, Monroe County Road Manager Sonny Clay said at a news conference. Nineteen people were taken to hospitals, including two in critical condition. A tornado was reported in the area about 140 miles southeast of Memphis at the time.
In Hamilton, Miss., 72-year-old Robert Scott said he had been sleeping in his recliner late Saturday when he was awakened and found himself in his yard after a tornado ripped most of his home off its foundation.
His 71-year-old wife, Linda, was in a different part of the house and also survived, he said. They found each other while crawling through the remnants of the house they had lived in since 1972.
“We’re living, and God has blessed us,” Scott, a retired manager for a grocery store meat department, said Sunday as neighbors helped him salvage his belongings.
National Weather Service meteorologist John Moore in Mississippi said a possible twister touched down in the Vicksburg area. No injuries were reported, but officials reported damage to several businesses and vehicles.
The storm damaged the roof of a hotel in New Albany, Miss., and Mississippi State University’s 21,000 students huddled in basements and hallways as a tornado neared the campus in Starkville about 11 p.m. Saturday.
University spokesman Sid Salter said some debris, possibly carried by the tornado, was found on campus, but no injuries were reported and no buildings were damaged. Trees were toppled, and minor damage was reported in residential areas east of the campus.
The storm system also caused flash flooding in Louisiana, where two deaths were reported.
Sebastian Omar Martinez, 13, drowned in a drainage canal during flash flooding about 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Bawcomville, near Monroe, said Deputy Glenn Springfield of the Ouachita Parish sheriff’s office. Separately, one person died when a car became submerged in floodwaters in Calhoun, also near Monroe.
As the storm moved into Alabama about 2:15 a.m. Sunday, a possible tornado knocked out power and damaged mobile homes in Troy, about 50 miles south of Montgomery.
Near the Birmingham suburb of Hueytown, a county employee died after he was struck by a vehicle while he was helping clear trees from a roadway, said Capt. David Agee of the Jefferson County sheriff’s office. The man, whose name was not released by Sunday evening, died after being taken to a hospital.
The forecast of severe weather forced officials at the Masters in Augusta, Ga., to start the final round of the golf tournament early on Sunday in order to finish in midafternoon before it began raining.
In Arkansas, Entergy spokesman Kerri Case said 3,200 customers were without power statewide as of Sunday afternoon. Most of the power failures were in Pulaski and Hot Spring counties.
“The ground was really saturated when the storm came in, so we had trees falling down from the roots, which is unusual for a storm with 40 mph” winds, Case said. “Downed trees have slowed down the restoration process, but we have crews working on it.”
Entergy Arkansas’ power-failure maps showed more than 3,300 customers without power in Pulaski County as of 6:30 p.m. Saturday and more than 19,200 without electricity statewide.
Roman Brown (left) and Sam Crawford move part of a shower wall out of their way Sunday as they help a friend look for medicine in the ruins of a home outside Hamilton, Miss.
Robert Scott looks through a family Bible that he pulled from the rubble of his home outside Hamilton, Miss., on Sunday.