14 dead after Christmastime tornadoes ravage 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 14 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 -- including a married couple and two neighbours on the same street -- were confirmed dead and their homes destroyed. "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. Six 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, including at least one man in hard-hit Benton County. The hunt was 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 Claus 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

  • Basil Borutski found guilty in 2015 killings

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Basil Borutski, the man accused of killing three women in an hour-long, revenge-fuelled rampage across the Ottawa Valley two years ago, has been found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder and one of second-degree murder. Source
  • Man ordered to pay $41K in fines for starting wildfires in northern Saskatchewan

    Canada News CTV News
    LA RONGE, Sask. -- A man who admitted he started several wildfires in northern Saskatchewan by flicking lit wooden matches into the forest has been fined tens of thousands of dollars. Donald Halkett Jr. Source
  • Calgary man found guilty in death of former girlfriend stabbed 75 times

    Canada News CTV News
    A 33-year-old Calgary man has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of his former common-law partner. After approximately eight hours of deliberation, the jury reached its verdict in the trial of Kevin Rubletz on Wednesday night. Source
  • Basil Borutski guilty of murdering 3 women in shocking killing spree

    Canada News CBC News
    Basil Borutski has been found guilty of murdering three of his former partners in a shocking one-day killing spree that's been called one of the worst cases of domestic violence in Canadian history. A jury of six men and five women returned the guilty verdicts on two counts of first-degree and one count of second-degree murder at 2:30 p.m. Source
  • Canadian submariner 'really feels for' Argentines lost on sub in South Atlantic

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- A man injured in a Canadian submarine accident says he feels for the families of 44 Argentine submarine crew members lost in the South Atlantic for nine days. Douglas Renken was one of nine sailors treated for smoke inhalation following the deadly fire onboard HMCS Chicoutimi in 2004. Source
  • Tiger escapes from circus, roams streets of Paris

    World News CTV News
    PARIS -- Police in Paris say a tiger escaped from a circus in the city and roamed the streets of the French capital for "some time" before being killed. Police said that the big cat was "neutralized" by a staff member from the circus near a bridge over the River Seine, about two kilometres (1.24 miles) from the Eiffel Tower. Source
  • Mosque attack a reminder of threat to Canadian Sinai force

    Canada News CBC News
    The Egyptian chapter of ISIS that claimed Friday's horrific attack in Bir al-Abd, Sinai, has also become a growing threat to a multinational force of peacekeepers that includes a contingent of 68 Canadian soldiers. The Multinational Force and Observer mission, or MFO, has been in the Sinai since 1981 to guarantee the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Source
  • Why Wilfrid Laurier University's president apologized to Lindsay Shepherd

    Canada News CBC News
    In an interview with CBC, Wilfred Laurier University's president and vice-chancellor Deborah MacLatchy explained why she apologized to Lindsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant who was recently sanctioned by the university. Listen to the full interview with Deborah MacLatchy Source
  • Oxford Dictionaries sends video message to B.C. boy who invented 'levidrome'

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA -- An editor at Oxford Dictionaries in the United Kingdom has sent an encouraging response to a six-year-old Victoria boy who created a buzz by inventing a word. Levi Budd came up with levidrome to define a word that forms a different word when spelled backwards, such as rats from star and loop from pool. Source
  • Ivanka Trump: Malia Obama should be 'off limits' to media

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Ivanka Trump is condemning recent tabloid coverage of President Barack Obama's eldest daughter Malia, saying the college student deserves privacy and ought to be "OFF limits." The president's daughter tweets: "Malia Obama should be allowed the same privacy as her school aged peers. Source