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.


Latest Canada & World News

  • Britain slams 'absurd' Russian denials of Skripal poisoning

    World News CTV News
    BRUSSELS - British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Monday described Russian claims that it is not responsible for the poisoning of a former spy as absurd, and said the U.K. has the full backing of its European partners. Source
  • Search for missing Montreal boy continues, one week after his disappearance

    Canada News CTV News
    Montreal police are considering using divers to search the Riviere des Prairies to find Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou if tests conducted on Sunday show the river is safe. It's been a week since the 10-year-old boy left his family's home and disappeared while walking to a friend's house. Source
  • Putin gains massive mandate for nationalist policies

    World News CTV News
    MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin won a fourth presidential term with nearly 77 per cent of the vote -- his highest score ever and a massive mandate to pursue his nationalist, assertive policies for another six years in power. Source
  • Another explosion injures 2 in Austin, but cause unclear

    World News CBC News
    Two people were injured in another explosion in Texas' capital, and police weren't saying if it was caused by a package bomb like the three that detonated earlier this month elsewhere in the city. The latest blast occurred around 8:30 p.m. Source
  • Another explosion injures 2 in Austin

    World News CTV News
    AUSTIN, Texas -- At least two people were injured in another explosion in Texas' capital Sunday night, after three package bombs detonated earlier this month in other parts of the city and killed two people and injured two others. Source
  • Boy shoots sister in video game controller dispute: police

    World News CTV News
    Authorities in Mississippi say a 9-year-old boy has shot his 13-year-old sister in the head and wounded her after an argument over a video game controller. Monroe County Sheriff Cecil Cantrell told local news outlets that the girl wouldn't give up the video game controller when her brother wanted it on Saturday. Source
  • Volunteers won't give up search for boy, 3, swept away in Ontario river

    Canada News CTV News
    Nearly one month after a little boy was swept away in an Ontario river, dozens of volunteers continue to search for him. Kaden Young, 3, was ripped from his mother’s arms after her minivan ended up in the swollen Grand River, near Orangeville, Ont. Source
  • Lawyer charges grieving family thousands for time spent responding to complaint against him

    Canada News CBC News
    A grieving daughter was blindsided when the lawyer hired to settle her father's estate charged thousands of dollars for time he spent responding to a complaint the family filed against him. But lawyers are not allowed to bill for hours spent responding to complaints, according to the Law Society of Ontario. Source
  • 2018 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremonies

    Canada News CBC News
    2018 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremonies LIVE0:00 Nearly 2,000 athletes from the circumpolar north have gathered in Hay River, Northwest Territories, for the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Arctic Winter Games Source
  • B.C. teachers' union to ask for higher salaries to help with shortages

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- The union representing British Columbia teachers will look to boost salaries, when their contract negotiations open later this year. B.C. Teachers' Federation president Glen Hansman told a crowd at the union's annual general meeting Saturday night that the province's low starting salaries mean that B.C. Source