Easter storms sweep South, killing at least 19 people

JACKSON, Miss.
(AP) — Severe weather has swept across the South, killing at least 19
people and damaging hundreds of homes from Louisiana into the
Appalachian Mountains. Many people spent part of the night early Monday
sheltering in basements, closets and bathroom tubs as sirens wailed to
warn of possible tornadoes.

Eleven
people were killed in Mississippi, and six more died in northwest
Georgia. Two other bodies were pulled from damaged homes in Arkansas and
South Carolina.

The
storms blew onward through the night, causing flooding and mudslides in
mountainous areas, and knocking out electricity for about 750,000
customers in a 10-state swath ranging from Texas to Georgia up to West
Virginia, according to poweroutages.us.

A massive tree felled by heavy winds early Monday lies across Peach Orchard Drive in Pikeville near the stations of Mountain Top Media. Mountain Top Media photo.

In
Alabama, where Gov. Kay Ivey suspended social distancing rules related
to the coronavirus pandemic because of the weather threat, people
wearing protective masks huddled closely together in a storm shelter.

A
suspected twister lifted a house, mostly intact, and deposited it in
the middle of a road in central Georgia. In Louisiana, winds ripped
apart a metal airplane hangar.

The
National Weather Service tallied hundreds of reports of trees down
across the region, including many that punctured roofs and downed power
lines. Meteorologists warned the mid-Atlantic states to prepare for
potential tornadoes, wind and hail on Monday.

In
Georgia, Murray County Fire Chief Dewayne Bain told WAGA-TV that two
mobile home parks were severely damaged, with five people killed and
five others hospitalized after a line of narrow line of storms left a
five mile long path of destruction. Another person was killed when a
tree fell on a home in Cartersville, the station reported.

Mississippi’s
death toll rose to 11 early Monday, the state’s emergency management
agency tweeted, promising details later in the morning.

In
Arkansas, one person was killed when a tree fell on a home in White
Hall, about 35 miles southeast of Little Rock, the Jefferson County
Department of Emergency Management said. In South Carolina, a person was
found dead in a collapsed building near Seneca as the apparent tornado
struck the city around 3:30 a.m. Monday, Oconee County Emergency
Management Director Scott Krein said.

Several
apparent tornadoes spun up in South Carolina, where dozens of homes
appeared damaged in a line from Seneca to Clemson. Emergency officials
were working to open shelters in the North Carolina mountains, where up
to 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain fell in a few hours.

In
Chattanooga, Tennessee, at least 150 homes and commercial buildings
were damaged and more than a dozen people treated, but none of their
injuries appeared to be life-threatening, Chattanooga Fire Chief Phil
Hyman said Monday morning.

“It’s
widespread damage that happened extremely fast, ” he said. “I advise
people to stay in their homes at this point. As far as safety is
concerned, we still have active power lines that are down.”

The
deaths in Mississippi included a married couple — Lawrence County
sheriff’s deputy, Robert Ainsworth, and a Walthall County Justice Court
deputy clerk, Paula We, a Facebook post from the county sheriff’s office
said.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency Sunday night after he said several tornadoes had struck the state.

“This is not how anyone wants to celebrate Easter,” Reeves said on Twitter. “As we reflect on the death and resurrection on this Easter Sunday, we have faith that we will all rise together.”

Strong
winds late Sunday toppled power lines and blew trees onto several
houses in Clarksdale, Mississippi, trapping some people inside, Mayor
Chuck Espy said.

“I know these are some tough times and I’m just asking everyone to stay prayed up,” Espy said.

There
were no immediate reports of serious injuries in Louisiana, even though
the storm damaged between 200 and 300 homes in and around the city of
Monroe, Mayor Jamie Mayo, told KNOE-TV. Flights were canceled at Monroe Regional Airport, where airport director Ron Phillips told the News-Star the storm caused up to $30 million in damage to planes inside a hangar.

In
Alabama, lightning struck the Shoals Creek Baptist Church in
Priceville, damaging the roof and steeple, Morgan County Emergency
Management Agency Eddie Hicks told AL.com.

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Source: Mountain Top