Deadly winter storm system scatters damage across U.S. South

HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. -- Residents were beginning to take stock after fierce storms that killed at least six across the U.S.

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The deadly spring-like storms killed three in Mississippi, two others in Tennessee and one in Arkansas before the worst passed Wednesday night.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said dozens of people in the state were being treated for injuries.

Agency spokesman Greg Flynn said before dawn Thursday that injuries are "more than 40 for sure, and some of those are quite serious." Some of the injuries included amputations, he said.

Mulester Johnson, 67, said he and relatives were inside his house in Holly Springs, Mississippi, when the storm hit. The wind tore the back of his house from its foundation and multiple sheds were missing afterward, he said. Trees rested atop several trucks on his property, and slabs of brick walls were strewn throughout his yard after the storm.

"The chimney is the only thing that saved us really," he said.

Johnson opened the door to what had been a bedroom and looked past his disheveled belongings to clusters of broken trees in the backyard. The room's walls had been blown away.

"This right here is a mess, but I can't complain because we're blessed," he said. Johnson planned on staying with relatives Wednesday night and said no one inside the house was injured.

A 7-year-old boy died in Holly Springs when the storm picked up and tossed the car he was riding in, officials said.

A tornado damaged or destroyed at least 20 homes in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Planes at a small airport overturned and an unknown number of people were injured.

"I'm looking at some horrific damage right now," Clarksdale Mayor Bill Luckett said. "Sheet metal is wrapped around trees; there are overturned airplanes; a building is just destroyed."

Television images showed the tornado appeared to be on the ground for more than 10 minutes.

Pieces of metal tangled in drooping power lines, dangling precariously alongside the road. The smell of freshly overturned dirt and trees lingered in the air as emergency crews tended to downed lines.

In Benton County, Mississippi, where at least two deaths occurred and at least two people were missing, crews were searching house-by-house to make sure residents were accounted for.

In Arkansas, Pope County Sheriff Shane Jones said 18-year-old Michaela Remus was killed when a tree crashed into her bedroom. The woman and her 1 1/2-year-old sister were sleeping in a bedroom of the house, when winds uprooted the tree that crashed through the roof. Rescuers pulled the toddler safely from the home.

"It's terrible that this happened, especially at Christmas," Jones said.

Associated Press writers Jeff Martin in Atlanta; Claudia Lauer in Little Rock, Arkansas; and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, contributed to this report.


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