LOUISVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Ruth Bennett died clutching the last child left at her day care center as a tornado wiped the building off its foundation. A firefighter who came upon the body gently pulled the toddler from her arms.
“It makes you just take a breath now,” said next-door neighbor Kenneth Billingsley, who witnessed the scene at what was left of Ruth’s Child Care Center in this logging town of 6,600. “It makes you pay attention to life.”
Widespread Damage And Casualties After Tornadoes Rip Through South
VILONIA, AR – APRIL 29: A passerby stops to look at damage caused by a tornado on Sunday evening, on April 29, 2014 in Vilonia, Arkansas. After deadly tornadoes ripped through the region leaving more than a dozen dead, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee are all under watch as multiple storms are expected over the next few days. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Bennett, 53, was among at least 34 people killed in a two-day outbreak of twisters and other violent weather that pulverized homes in half a dozen states from Iowa to Tennessee. The child’s fate was not immediately known.
As crews in Mississippi and Alabama turned from search-and-rescue efforts to cleanup, the South braced for a third round of potentially deadly weather Tuesday. Tornadoes usually strike in the late afternoon and evening.
One of the hardest-hit areas in Monday evening’s barrage of twisters was Tupelo, Miss., where a gas station looked as if it had been stepped on by a giant.
Francis Gonzalez, who also owns a convenience store and Mexican restaurant attached to the service station, took cover with her three children and two employees in the store’s cooler as the roof over the gas pumps was reduced to aluminum shards.
“My Lord, how can all this happen in just one second?” she said in Spanish.
On Tuesday, the whine of chain saws cut through the otherwise still, hazy morning in Tupelo. Massive oak trees, knocked over like toys, blocked roads. Neighbors helped one another cut away limbs.
“This does not even look like a place that I’m familiar with right now,” said Pam Montgomery, walking her dog in her neighborhood. “You look down some of the streets, and it doesn’t even look like there is a street.”
Tornado hits Mayflower, Ark.
Travel trailers and motor homes are piled on top of each other at Mayflower RV in Mayflower, Ark., Sunday, April 27, 2014.A powerful storm system rumbled through the central and southern United States on Sunday, spawning tornadoes.
UPDATE 4-U.S. storm system that killed 16 causes tornado in Mississippi
* Tornado touches down in Mississippi
* More than 100 injured
* Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia at risk (Adds Mississippi governor)
By Colin Sims
VILONIA, Ark., April 28 (Reuters) – A ferocious storm system caused a twister in Mississippi and threatened tens of millions of people across the U.S. Southeast on Monday, a day after it spawned tornadoes that killed 16 people and tossed cars like toys in Arkansas and other states.
A tornado went through Tupelo, Mississippi in the northern part of the state at about 3 p.m. (1800 GMT), damaging hundreds of homes, downing power lines and toppling trees, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant told CNN.
There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries after six instances of tornadoes touching down in the state.
“It is not over. This is going to be a prolonged storm,” Bryant said.
Parts of Alabama, western Georgia and Tennessee also were at risk as the storm system that produced the series of tornadoes headed east toward the Mid-Atlantic states.
Rescue workers, volunteers and victims have been sifting through the rubble in the hardest-hit state of Arkansas, looking for survivors in central Faulkner County where a tornado reduced homes to splinters, snapped power lines and mangled trees.
Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe said at least 14 people died statewide in the storm that authorities said produced the first fatalities of this year’s U.S. tornado season. He previously told a news conference 16 had been killed but later said there was a mistake in calculation.
Nine of the victims came from the same street in the town of Vilonia, with a population of about 4,100, where a new intermediate school set to open in August was heavily damaged by a tractor trailer blown into its roof. A steel farm shop anchored to concrete was erased from the landscape.
Beebe told reporters of the capricious nature of tornadoes. He said a woman died when the door of her home’s reinforced safe room collapsed, while a father and three daughters survived by seeking shelter in a bathtub that was flipped over in winds that leveled the house.
One person was killed in neighboring Oklahoma and another in Iowa, state authorities said.
‘LONG ROAD TO HEALING’
“Everything is just leveled to the ground,” Vilonia resident Matt Rothacher said. “It cut a zig-zag right through town.”
Rothacher was at home with his wife and four children when the tornado passed through. While his home survived, The Valley Church where he serves as pastor was flattened.
Read More Here
PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — People were plucked off rooftops or climbed into their attics to get away from fast-rising waters when nearly 2 feet of rain fell on the Florida Panhandle and Alabama coast in the span of about 24 hours, the latest bout of severe weather that began with tornadoes in the Midwest.
On Wednesday, roads were chewed up into pieces or wiped out entirely and neighborhoods were inundated, making rescues difficult for hundreds of people who called for help when they were caught off guard by the single rainiest day ever recorded in Pensacola.
Boats and Humvees zigzagged through the flooded streets to help stranded residents. A car and truck plummeted 25 feet when portions of a scenic highway collapsed, and one Florida woman died when she drove her car into high water, officials said.
Near the Alabama-Florida line, water started creeping into Brandi McCoon’s mobile home, so her fiance, Jonathan Brown, wrapped up her nearly 2-year-old son Noah in a blanket and they swam in neck-deep water to their car about 50 feet away.
Then, the car was flooded.
“Every which way we turned, there was a big ol’ pile of water,” she said.
Brown called 911 and eventually a military vehicle picked them up and took them to a shelter.
Kyle Schmitz was at his Pensacola home with his 18-month-old son Oliver on Tuesday night when heavy rain dropped during a 45-minute span. He gathered up his son, his computer and important papers and left.
Read More Here