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

  • Desperate times obscure Canada's role in Iraq's uncertain future

    Canada News CTV News
    ERBIL, Iraq -- A baby's cry pierces the din as dozens of people wait to see a doctor or nurse at what's surely one of the busiest health clinics in the Middle East: inside a sprawling refugee camp that's home to 18,000 displaced men, women and children. Source
  • U.S. House probe into Russia ties to Trump off to rocky start

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- A simmering dispute between leaders of the House intelligence committee spilled into the public Monday over an investigation into whether President Donald Trump has ties to Russia, even as they pledged to conduct a bipartisan probe. Source
  • Turkey jails reporter from Germany's Die Welt paper

    World News CBC News
    Turkish authorities on Monday arrested a reporter for a prominent German newspaper on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organization and inciting the public to violence, Republican People's Party (CHP) lawmaker Baris Yarkadas told reporters outside the courthouse. Source
  • Convicted killer Kelly Ellard allowed temporary escorted prison release

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Convicted killer Kelly Ellard has been granted temporary escorted absences from prison to attend doctor’s appointments and parenting programs for her baby. Parole board member Alex Dantzer says it’s disturbing that Ellard continues to minimize her crime, but in light of her good behaviour in prison she should be allowed the absences. Source
  • Jewish centres cope with more bomb threats; graves also vandalized

    World News Toronto Sun
    PHILADELPHIA - Money is being raised to repair and restore more than 100 headstones that were vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia while police hunt for the person who toppled them. A man visiting Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday called police to report that three of his relatives’ headstones had been knocked over and damaged. Source
  • Bartender told 911 Kansas man accused of shooting two Indian men thought they were Iranian

    World News Toronto Sun
    OLATHE, Kan. — A bartender at the restaurant where a man was arrested last week for an apparently racially motivated bar shooting of two Indian men told a 911 dispatcher that the suspect admitted shooting two people, but described them as Iranian. Source
  • Ex-Montreal mayor Applebaum won't appeal corruption conviction

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- The lawyer for former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum says there will be no appeal of his client's conviction on corruption-related charges. Pierre Teasdale confirmed the decision Monday but did not give any reasons. Source
  • Mom not getting son, who weighed 132 lbs. at age 5, back

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    SYDNEY, N.S. — A Nova Scotia judge has ruled that a boy who was five years old and weighed 132 pounds when he was taken from his mother will not return to her care, saying living with her was too hazardous to his health. Source
  • Security advisory issued after bomb threats at Jewish schools, centres across U.S.

    World News CTV News
    A national Jewish civil rights organization is urging institutions across the United States to ramp up their security efforts amid a wave of bomb threats phoned into Jewish community centres and schools in as many as 12 U.S. Source
  • 'Just killed two people. Cheers': Murderer sends chilling text to father

    World News Toronto Sun
    A Welsh man sent a bitter text to his father soon after stabbing his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend to death, bizarrely signing off the message by saying “cheers.” Before the double-killing of Zoe Morgan and Lee Simmons in Cardiff, Andrew Saunders took to Google, asking “how long do murderers serve in prison,” according to the Daily Mail. Source