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

  • Syrians left with few choices in search for safety

    World News CTV News
    SAFIRA, Syria -- Carrying her four-year-old son, Elham Saleh walked all night behind a smuggler, navigating land mines through Islamic State group- and rebel-held territory in northern Syria. Finally, they reached relative safety in Safira, a government-controlled village on the southern edge of the city of Aleppo, where they have been staying for the past two weeks. Source
  • Philippines, communist rebels resume peace talks in Rome

    World News CTV News
    MANILA, Philippines - Philippine negotiators and communist guerrillas are set to resume peace talks in Rome, with the Maoist insurgents warning that alleged government violations of an accord on human rights may prompt them to end a monthslong ceasefire. Source
  • Former U.S. president George H.W. Bush remains hospitalized

    World News CTV News
    HOUSTON - Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, remain hospitalized in Houston, where he was in intensive care for pneumonia and she was being watched after complaining of fatigue and coughing. The 92-year-old former president went into the ICU on Wednesday and underwent a procedure "to protect and clear his airway that required sedation," family spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement. Source
  • At least 24 children killed after bus, truck collide in India

    World News CTV News
    LUCKNOW, India - A truck loaded with sand collided with a school bus early Thursday, killing at least 24 young children in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, police said. At least two dozen other children were injured in the collision when the speeding truck collided head-on with the bus, said Javeed Ahmed, the state's top police official. Source
  • Fears deepen for Mexico ahead of Trump inauguration

    World News CTV News
    MEXICO CITY - Donald Trump's assumption of the U.S. presidency couldn't come at a worse time for Mexico. Drug violence here is again on the upswing, the government has struggled to combat widespread corruption and nationwide protests have erupted after gasoline prices spiked this month amid the country's falling oil production and inability to produce all its own fuel. Source
  • Guatemalan president's son and brother detained in corruption probe

    World News CTV News
    GUATEMALA CITY - Guatemalan prosecutors detained the brother and son of President Jimmy Morales on Wednesday in a case of alleged corruption. A UN anti-graft commission said they are suspected of submitting about $23,000 worth of false receipts in an alleged tax fraud. Source
  • Ont. teen subject of Amber Alert wasn't actually abducted, police say

    Canada News CTV News
    MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Police in Peel Region west of Toronto say a 15-year-old girl who was the subject of an Amber Alert on Monday was not kidnapped as initially suspected. The alert had cited witnesses as saying the girl had been forced into a van in Mississauga by two men. Source
  • Okla. shooting victim saved by plate in neck: investigators

    World News CTV News
    TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Investigators say a metal plate in an Oklahoma man's neck saved him from paralysis or worse when he was shot. Robert Thurman told 911 dispatchers Friday that his sister Gretchen Thurman shot him, The Tahlequah Daily Press reported. Source
  • South Korean court denies request to arrest Samsung Group chief

    World News CBC News
    A South Korean court on Thursday denied a special prosecutor clearance to arrest the head of Samsung Group, the country's largest conglomerate, amid a graft scandal that has led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. Source
  • Virginia man who killed noted musician and his family is executed

    World News CBC News
    Virginia has executed a man convicted of killing two young girls and their parents during a New Year's Day home invasion more than 11 years ago. Authorities say 39-year-old Ricky Gray was pronounced dead at 9:42 p.m. Source