Twisters bring deaths, carnage to South


by William M. Welch and Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

Posted on April 28, 2014 at 6:50 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 29 at 6:15 AM

At least 11 people were killed Monday after a tornadoes touched down in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennesse, bringing the overall death toll from two days of severe weather to at least 28.

In Mississippi, Republican state Sen. Giles Ward said he was huddled in a bathroom with his wife, four other family members and their dog Monday night as a tornado destroyed his two-story brick house and flipped his son-in-law's SUV upside down onto the patio in Louisville.

"For about 30 seconds, it was unbelievable," Ward said. "It's about as awful as anything we've gone through."

Following two days of brutally violent weather, which has included almost 100 reports of tornadoes in the central and southern USA, more violent weather was forecast for Tuesday.

More than 60 million people from southeastern Michigan to the central Gulf coast to the Carolinas and southern Virginia are at risk of severe storms and tornadoes Tuesday, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

Mississippi and Alabama remained the states with the highest risk of severe weather, with cities such as Meridian, Miss., and Birmingham, Ala., in the cross hairs for tornadoes, the Storm Prediction Center reported.

Meanwhile, a forecast of ongoing heavy rain has caused the National Weather Service to issue flash flood watches for much of the East Coast, all the way from northern Florida to southern New England.

In Lincoln County, Tenn., the National Weather Service warned at 8:24 p.m. Monday that tornado was coming: "Catastrophic damage likely with storm in Lincoln County," the message read. "170 (knots) of rotation with debris extending above" 20,000 feet."

Within minutes, the warnings grew more dire with winds exceeding 190 mph, The Tennessean reported. Two people were killed in the county and several homes were destroyed, The Tennessean reports.

The warning seemingly came out of nowhere, said Chris Murdock, who lived 4 miles away from a damaged elementary school. While he and his family didn't see the tornado, the gusts and hail they saw as they went to a friend's basement were enough for him to know this wasn't an average spring storm.

"Just by the looks of it, you could tell something terrible was happening," he said.

Athens, Ala., spokeswoman Holly Hollman said the Limestone County sheriff's department reported two deaths from a twister that hit a mobile home park west of the town.

In Mississippi, seven deaths have been reported, emergency officials told reporters at a press conference with Gov. Phil Bryant. Mississippi Director of Health Protection said officials are still awaiting confirmation of those deaths from coroners.

"Obviously there has been storm damage. It's a very serious situation," Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported. "I am just encouraging everyone to stay inside and be weather aware. There is still a very real danger of another line coming through and people still need to be inside."

At least two restaurants were destroyed and a motel suffered extensive damage, the newspaper reported

Injuries were reported in Tupelo, a community of about 35,000 in northeastern Mississippi, and in Louisville, Miss., the seat of Winston County about 90 miles northeast of Jackson, where about 6,600 people live, Mississippi Health Department spokesman Jim Craig said.

A medical center in Louisville, Miss., suffered wind damage, with two walls knocked down, the Clarion-Ledger reported.

Thirty tornadoes were reported Sunday night and early Monday in seven states, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management revised the state's death toll from Sunday's tornadoes to 14, down two from initial reports, according to KTHV-TV. A 15th death was later reported. There were also deaths Sunday in Iowa and Oklahoma.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said the death toll is likely to rise as rescue teams work through the hardest-hit areas.

That includes at least 10 people were killed in the small central Arkansas community of Vilonia, north of Little Rock, by a huge twister that ripped homes from foundations and flipped cars.

One person was also killed in Oklahoma and one in Iowa.

After hitting Quapaw, the tornado moved north to Kansas and hit Baxter Springs about 5 miles away. Cherokee County, Kan., sheriff's dispatcher Josh Harvey said the tornado injured several people.

Emergency officials in Iowa said at least one person was killed by a twister in Keokuk County.

A twister also hit Baxter Springs, Kan., injured at least 25 people and destroying 60 to 70 homes and 20 to 25 businesses in the city of roughly 4,200 residents, according to Cherokee County, Kan., emergency manager Jason Allison.

At a news conference in the Philippines, President Obama sent his condolences to those affected by the tornado and promised that the federal government would help in the recovery.

"Your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild as long as it takes," Obama said.

Contributing: Doyle Rice, William Cummings; The Associated Press