Suspected tornadoes swept across parts of Alabama and Tennessee early Wednesday, killing five people and injuring more than a dozen as severe storms dropped heavy rains on the drought-stricken South.
Dozens of buildings were reported damaged or destroyed.
Three people were killed and one person critically injured in a mobile home after an apparent twister hit the small northern Alabama town of Rosalie, Jackson County Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen said.
Shirley Knight, whose family owns a small propane business in the area, said the storm crashed in on them in the middle of the night. Daybreak revealed mangled sheets of metal, insulation and a ladder hanging in trees.
“We had a plaza, a service station and several buildings connected together, and it’s all gone,” said Knight, adding that the storm also destroyed a church and damaged buildings at a nearby Christmas tree farm.
The same storm apparently hit a closed day care center in the community of Ider, injuring seven people, including three children who had left their mobile home to seek shelter, said Anthony Clifton, DeKalb County emergency management director.
The twisters were reported across several counties in northern Alabama and southern Tennessee, National Weather Service meteorologist Lauren Nash said.
An apparent tornado was responsible for the death of a husband and wife in southern Tennessee’s Polk County, while an unknown number of others were injured, said Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Dean Flener. No further details were immediately available.
The storms tore through just as firefighters began to get raging wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, under control after flames wiped out hundreds of buildings, including homes, and in Alabama dumped more than 2 inches of rain in areas that had been parched by months of drought.
Tornadoes and hail also were reported Tuesday in Louisiana and Mississippi. The National Weather Service in Jackson, Mississippi, counted six confirmed tornadoes so far in the areas of the state it monitors.
Despite dozens of tornado warnings, Mississippi authorities said no one was injured in that state, but six homes were reported destroyed in one southeastern county.
Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said he came upon a UPS truck that was blown onto its side and hit a pickup truck.
The Storm Forecast Center in Norman, Oklahoma, issued a tornado watch from southeast Louisiana to northwest Georgia as a line of severe storm moved southeast Wednesday morning.
National Weather Service offices in Louisiana and Alabama planned to send crews out Wednesday to survey the path of the storms and damage.