11 dead after Christmastime tornadoes ravage U.S. South

ASHLAND, Miss. -- Instead of doing some last-minute shopping or wrapping gifts, families across the South spent Christmas Eve taking stock of their losses after an unusual outbreak of December tornadoes and other violent weather killed at least 11 people and damaged or destroyed dozens of homes.

See Full Article

"Santa brought us a good one, didn't he?" Bobby Watkins said as he and his wife took a walk amid the destruction in rural Benton County, Mississippi, where four people were confirmed dead. "I may have lost some stuff, but I got my life."

Unseasonably warm weather Wednesday helped spawn twisters from Arkansas to Michigan. The line of springlike storms continued marching east Thursday, dumping torrential rain that flooded roads in Alabama and caused a mudslide in the mountains of Georgia.

Authorities confirmed seven deaths in Mississippi, including that of a 7-year-old boy who was in a car that was swept up and tossed by a storm. Three more died in Tennessee. One person was killed in Arkansas.

Dozens more were injured, some seriously, said Greg Flynn, spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Search teams combed damaged homes and businesses for people still missing, a hunt made complicated because so many had left for the holidays.

"Until they know for sure where those folks are, they're going to keep looking, because we've had in some cases houses levelled, and they're just not there anymore," Flynn said.

In Linden, Tennessee, Tony Goodwin ducked into a storm shelter with seven others as the storm passed. He emerged to find his house had been knocked off its foundation and down the hill.

He managed to climb inside and fetch some Christmas gifts that had been under his tree. Goodwin's neighbours weren't so fortunate. Two people in one home were killed.

"It makes you thankful to be alive with your family," he said. "It's what Christmas is all about."

Chris Shupiery grabbed his Santa hat along with a chain saw as he set out to help clean up on Thursday. He cut up fallen trees not far from Goodwin's home.

"This was just the right thing to do, come help a family in need," Shupiery said. "Suit up, try to cheer people up and try to make them feel a little better with Christmas coming around."

In Benton County, Mississippi, relatives helped Daisy and Charles Johnson clean up after the storm flattened their house. They carried some of the couple's belongings past a Santa Clause figure on a table.

Daisy Johnson, 68, said she and her husband rushed along with other relatives to their storm shelter across the street from the house after they heard a twister was headed their way.

"We looked straight west of us and there it was. It was yellow and it was roaring, lightning just continually, and it was making a terrible noise," she said. "I never want to hear that again for as long as I live."

Mona Ables, 43, was driving home when the storm hit. She abandoned her car, ran to a house and banged on a window, seeking shelter.

The startled man inside couldn't open the door, which appeared to be blocked, Ables said. She huddled next to the house as another stranger pulled up, also looking for shelter.

"He and I just huddled together and saw trees fly past us, and a shipping container flip over," Ables said. "And as the debris started hitting us, he just covered me, and within a minute it was all over and there was destruction all around us and we were fine."

Peak tornado season in the South is in the spring, but such storms can happen at any time. Exactly a year ago, twisters hit Mississippi, killing five people and injuring dozens.

Glenda Hunt, 69, was cooking chicken and making dressing Wednesday night at her Benton County home, where Christmas Eve lunch is a family tradition, when her daughter called to warn her of the approaching storm.

Hunt and her husband ducked into their storm shelter and wrestled the door shut against the wind's powerful suction. She started praying when she heard sheet metal hitting trees.

On Thursday, heavy farm equipment and corn were strewn across the couple's property. Their house sustained heavy structural damage but was still standing.

"We're OK and that's all that matters," Hunt said. "But the Lord did save my furniture."

Schelzig reported from Linden, Tennessee; Associated Press writers Josh Replogle in Miami; Jeff Martin in Atlanta; Claudia Lauer in Little Rock, Arkansas; and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • U.S. special envoy backs unconditional talks with North Korea

    World News CTV News
    BANGKOK - The U.S. special envoy for North Korea has expressed hope that Pyongyang would accept Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's diplomatic offer of unconditional talks, although the overture has already been contradicted by the White House. Source
  • Suspect in Charlottesville car attack faces new charge of first-degree murder

    World News CTV News
    CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The man accused of driving into a crowd protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville faces a new charge of first-degree murder after a court hearing Thursday in which prosecutors presented surveillance video and other evidence against him. Source
  • Firefighter dies while battling huge California wildfire

    World News CBC News
    A firefighter died Thursday while working a colossal wildfire burning in coastal mountains northwest of Los Angeles that has become the fourth largest in California history. Cory Iverson was an engineer with a state fire engine strike team based in San Diego. Source
  • U.S. prosecutors move to cash in on seized bitcoin

    World News CTV News
    SALT LAKE CITY -- U.S. attorneys in Utah prosecuting a multimillion-dollar opioid drug-ring are moving quickly to sell seized bitcoin that’s exploded in value to about $8.5 million since the alleged ringleader’s arrest a year ago. Source
  • Australian probe into child abuse attacks Catholic celibacy

    World News CTV News
    CANBERRA, Australia - An Australian inquiry into child abuse on Friday recommended that the Catholic Church lift its demand of celibacy from clergy and that priests be prosecuted for failing to report evidence of paedophilia heard in the confessional. Source
  • Alberta challenges 'petty' Saskatchewan licence plate ban

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON - Alberta is taking legal action against Saskatchewan's licence plate ban, calling it a slam-dunk case over a small-minded policy. "This petty and ridiculous restriction has real consequences for businesses and hard-working people on both sides of the border - and we are going to end it," Alberta Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous said Thursday. Source
  • Saskatchewan plane crash: Passenger, rescuer share their stories

    Canada News CTV News
    A passenger on the twin-engine plane that crashed moments after takeoff in northern Saskatchewan on Wednesday night describes two loud noises followed by silence, telling him that both engines had cut out. He remembers watching as the trees below drew closer to his window. Source
  • Delilah Saunders moving to Toronto hospital for liver assessment: family

    Canada News CTV News
    N.S. Indigenous activist Delilah Saunders is being transferred to a Toronto hospital as her family fights to get the critically ill Inuk woman a liver transplant. Saunders is the 26-year-old sister of Loretta Saunders who was killed in 2014. Source
  • Trump thanks Putin for remarks on strong U.S. economy

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for remarks he made Thursday "acknowledging America's strong economic performance," the White House said. The two presidents spoke by phone following Putin's annual press conference in Moscow. Source
  • Slim Republican majority on U.S. tax bill under threat after Marco Rubio defects

    World News CBC News
    The U.S. Republican Party's razor-thin margin for driving their sweeping tax package through the Senate was thrown into jeopardy Thursday when Republican Sen. Marco Rubio declared he will vote against it unless negotiators expand the tax credit that low-income Americans can claim for their children. Source