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Dozens of tornadoes kill 194 in 5 Southern states

By Jay Reeves

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, April 28 2011 6:55 a.m. MDT

In Huntsville, meteorologists found themselves in the path of severe storms and had to take shelter in a reinforced steel room, turning over monitoring duties to a sister office in Jackson, Miss. Meteorologists saw multiple wall clouds, which sometimes spawn tornadoes, and decided to take cover, but the building wasn't damaged.

"We have to take shelter just like the rest of the people," said meteorologist Chelly Amin, who wasn't at the office at the time but spoke with colleagues about the situation.

In Kemper County, Miss., in the east-central part of the state, sisters Florrie Green and Maxine McDonald, and their sister-in-law Johnnie Green, all died in a mobile home that was destroyed by a storm.

"They were thrown into those pines over there," Mary Green, Johnnie Green's daughter-in-law, said, pointing to a wooded area. "They had to go look for their bodies."

In Choctaw County, Miss., a Louisiana police officer was killed Wednesday morning when a towering sweetgum tree fell onto his tent as he shielded his young daughter with his body, said Kim Korthuis, a supervisory ranger with the National Park Service. The girl wasn't hurt.

The 9-year-old girl was brought to a motor home about 100 feet away where campsite volunteer Greg Maier was staying with his wife. He went back to check on the father and found him dead.

In a neighborhood south of Birmingham, Austin Ransdell and a friend had to hike out after the house where he was living was crushed by four trees. No one was hurt.

As he walked away from the wreckage, trees and power lines crisscrossed residential streets, and police cars and utility trucks blocked a main highway.

"The house was destroyed. We couldn't stay in it. Water pipes broke; it was flooding the basement," he said. "We had people coming in telling us another storm was coming in about four or five hours, so we just packed up."

Not far away, Craig Branch was stunned by the damage.

"Every street to get into our general subdivision was blocked off," he said. "Power lines are down; trees are all over the road. I've never seen anything like that before."

The storms came on the heels of another system that killed 10 people in Arkansas and one in Mississippi earlier this week.

Reeves reported from Tuscaloosa. Associated Press Writers Holbrook Mohr in Choctaw County, Miss.; Anna McFall and John Zenor in Montgomery; Bill Fuller and Alan Sayre in New Orleans; Dorie Turner in Atlanta and Bill Poovey in Chattanooga, Tenn., contributed to this report.

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