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

  • Police: Pregnant woman overdoses, charged with baby assault

    World News CTV News
    EAST BUTLER, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania woman who overdosed on heroin while pregnant and had to undergo a cesarean section is being charged with assault on her unborn child, authorities said. Kasey Dischman, 30, was roughly seven months pregnant when she injected herself with heroin she found under a couch early last Friday in her home in East Butler, about 64 kilometres north of Pittsburgh, a criminal complaint obtained by KDKA-TV shows. Source
  • Australian police charge Vatican cardinal with sex offences

    World News CTV News
    SYDNEY, Australia -- Australian police charged a top Vatican cardinal on Thursday with multiple counts of historical sexual assault offences, a stunning decision certain to rock the highest levels of the Holy See. Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis' chief financial adviser and Australia's most senior Catholic, is the highest-ranking Vatican official to ever be charged in the church's long-running sexual abuse scandal. Source
  • RRRoll Up the Rim in the summer? Yes, it's happening now

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    It’s time to double down on Canada 150 celebrations with a double-double. Tim Hortons has announced a special edition of RRRoll Up the Rim to Win that begins on June 28 and continues through July 21, 2017. Source
  • Uber customers to start paying federal sales taxes July 1

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A ride in an Uber taxi will be a little more expensive as of Canada Day with federal tax added to the app’s taxi fares. The 2017 federal budget requires that HST and GST — which amounts to 13 per cent for Ontarians — be charged on every ridesharing trip in Canada as of July 1. Source
  • Canada reveals its team for the upcoming Invictus Games

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The strength of Canada’s team at the upcoming Invictus Games in Toronto lies in the bond between the veterans and armed forces members who form the group, the team’s co-captain said Thursday as organizers marked the 100-day countdown to the international sporting competition. Source
  • Clark says if her government toppled, it shows B.C. legislature can't function

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA -- Premier Christy Clark says she doesn't think the British Columbia legislature can work if her Liberal government is defeated in a confidence vote on Thursday. If Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon asks for her opinion, Clark says she will tell her she hasn't seen any evidence the house can function with the NDP and Greens holding a one-vote advantage in the 87-seat legislature. Source
  • Police pilot accused of helicopter attack in Venezuelan capital

    World News CBC News
    Oscar Perez is a cop, pilot, action movie star and dog trainer. He's now also a fugitive, accused of strafing two key Venezuelan government buildings from a helicopter in a quixotic attempt to set off a revolt against President Nicolas Maduro. Source
  • Saretzky guilty on all charges

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    LETHBRIDGE — It took jurors three hours Wednesday to convict Derek Saretzky of three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of a little girl, her dad and an unrelated senior. The six-man, six-woman Court of Queen’s Bench jury found Saretzky planned and deliberated the Sept. Source
  • Kittens rescued from abuse in Prince Albert, Sask., die

    Canada News CBC News
    Five kittens rescued from abuse and attempts to light them on fire last month in Prince Albert, Sask., have died. "It's a very sad ending," said Liana Maloney, manager of the Prince Albert Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Source
  • Bono, the Edge donating time for Canada Day concert, government says

    Canada News CBC News
    U2 members Bono and the Edge are donating their time as a "birthday present to Canada" and will not be paid a performance fee for appearing at Canada 150 celebrations on Parliament Hill July 1, a spokesperson from Canadian Heritage says. Source