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

  • Ontario bill seeks to ban mandatory high heels

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - An Ontario Liberal is introducing a bill today that would ban the province's employers from requiring women to wear high heels at work. The private member's bill from Cristina Martins would amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to protect workers from being required to wear unsafe footwear as part of dress and uniform codes. Source
  • Kurdish forces pull out of Sinjar after losing Kirkuk

    World News CTV News
    IRBIL, Iraq - Iraq's Kurdish fighters have lost more territory in Iraq, a day after Iraqi forces pushed them out of the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk. In the town of Sinjar, commander of the local Yazidi militia, Masloum Shingali, says the Kurdish forces left before dawn on Tuesday, allowing Shiite-led militiamen who are fighting with Iraqi forces to move into the town. Source
  • China's president looks to extend power at Communist Party congress

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - Having bested his rivals, Chinese President Xi Jinping is primed to consolidate his already considerable power as the ruling Communist Party begins its twice-a-decade national congress on Wednesday. From meetings largely cloaked in secrecy, powerful players will emerge publicly in new roles, and Xi will address the nation to lay out his political and economic vision for the world's second-largest economy over the next five years. Source
  • Californians brace for emotional toll from wildfires

    World News CTV News
    SANTA ROSA, Calif. - A week after fleeing wildfires, tens of thousands of Californians are drifting back into their neighbourhoods. Some will face the prospect of destroyed homes. All will face possible lasting emotional damage. Source
  • Calgary's Naheed Nenshi re-elected as mayor as Alberta votes in municipal elections

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY - A tight and sometimes nasty political race is coming to an end in Calgary, where incumbent Naheed Nenshi looks likely to be re-elected as mayor for a third term. With about half of polls reporting, Nenshi is headed toward beating Calgary lawyer Bill Smith by a significant margin. Source
  • Calgary's Nenshi re-elected as mayor as Alberta votes in municipal elections

    Canada News CTV News
    Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has handily won a third term after a bitter and divisive campaign during which his at-times prickly personality was a focus. His main challenger, former Progressive Conservative Party president Bill Smith, conceded around midnight Tuesday. Source
  • U.S., Japan agree to ramp up diplomatic pressure on North Korea

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO - U.S. and Japanese diplomats agreed Tuesday to maximize pressure on North Korea to resolve tensions over its nuclear program, while citing the need to be prepared for the worst if diplomacy failed. U.S. Source
  • Naheed Nenshi has been re-elected as Calgary mayor, CBC News projects

    Canada News CBC News
    CBC News has projected that Naheed Nenshi will be re-elected as mayor of Calgary. Nenshi has maintained a strong lead in Calgary's mayoral race throughout Monday night over his closest competitor, Bill Smith, as results trickled in after polls closed at 8 p.m. Source
  • Nenshi re-elected as Calgary's mayor as at least 9 incumbent councillors keep their seats

    Canada News CBC News
    CBC News has projected that Naheed Nenshi will be re-elected as mayor of Calgary. Nenshi has maintained a strong lead in Calgary's mayoral race throughout Monday night over his closest competitor, Bill Smith, as results trickled in after polls closed at 8 p.m. Source
  • Authorities make final arrest in U.S. border agent's killing

    World News CTV News
    PHOENIX - Authorities in Mexico have arrested the final of seven defendants accused in the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent whose death exposed a bungled federal gun operation, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Source