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At least 3 killed as storms slam southeast after tornadoes bring devastation to Midwest

More deadly storms hammer Southern U.S.
More deadly storms, tornadoes hammer Southern U.S. 02:17

Severe storms tore through the central and southeast U.S. Tuesday and again Wednesday, spawning damaging tornadoes, producing massive hail, and killing two people in Tennessee and a third in North Carolina.

The storms continued an outbreak of torrential rain and tornadoes that has cut across the country this week, from the Plains to the Midwest and now the Southeast. At least four people have died in storms since Monday.

The National Weather Service declared a tornado emergency late Wednesday in the area of Henagar, in northeast Alabama. The funnel caused at least two injuries, both non-life-threatening, and trapped some people in their homes who were rescued, officials said.

The storm that rumbled across northeastern Tennessee brought high winds that knocked down powerlines and trees. Claiborne County Sheriff Bob Brooks said a 22-year-old man was in a car struck by one of the trees. Claiborne County Mayor Joe Brooks also confirmed the death in a social media post.

Wednesday afternoon, a tornado emergency — the National Weather Service's highest alert level — was issued for an area south of Nashville including the towns of Spring Hill, Chapel Hill and Eagleville.

The National Weather Service had previously reported a likely tornado on the ground in nearby Columbia, about 45 miles south of Nashville.

Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder confirmed in a statement at least one person died because of the storm, but no details on the cause of death were immediately provided.

Molder said there was a "number of sightings of confirmed tornado touch-downs" in the area that resulted in "bodily injuries and property damage."

Rita Thompson, Marketing & Communications director with Maury Regional Health, said the hospital had received five patients. One died, another was in serious condition and three had injuries that were not life-threatening.

The Maury County Office of Emergency Management in a statement urged "everyone to stay out of the areas hit" by the storm, adding that all schools in the county, which includes the city of Columbia, would be closed Thursday.

Northeast of Nashville, a flash flood emergency was issued for Sumner and Robertson counties including the cities of Hendersonville and Gallatin. The National Weather Service said water rescues were ongoing in those areas and described the flooding from heavy thunderstorms as life-threatening.

"Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order," the weather agency alert said.

The National Weather Service in Nashville on Wednesday evening issued a tornado watch for parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee until 3 a.m. CDT. The weather service continued issuing tornado warnings into the night, mostly in Tennessee, but also in Missouri, Alabama, Georgia and Texas.

In North Carolina, a state of emergency was declared for Gaston County Wednesday evening following a large storm. First responders were working to clear roads of downed power lines and broken trees and were helping residents, officials said. The New Hope Fire Department responded to a tree down on a car. One person in the car was killed and another was taken to a hospital, officials said.

More than 152,000 customers were without power in North Carolina and Tennessee Wednesday night, according to utility tracker

Tornadoes were first reported after dark Tuesday in parts of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, according to the National Weather Service. The storms came a day after a deadly twister ripped through an Oklahoma town.

Oklahoma Town Of Barnsdall Hit By Deadly Tornado
The Crowder family surveys their home destroyed by a tornado on May 7, 2024, in Barnsdall, Oklahoma. The EF3 twister that struck claimed one life and destroyed dozens of homes in the community of just over 1,000 people. Brandon Bell / Getty Images

The National Weather Service confirmed tornadoes touched down Tuesday in western Ohio: five in Warren County and one each in Darke, Mercer and Auglaize counties. The weather service said crews are still surveying areas of Franklin and Butler counties to determine if tornadoes struck there, as well. Radar indicated a tornado struck Jefferson County, but teams will have to evaluate the damage to determine its rating, said Jeff Craven, a weather service meteorologist in Pittsburgh.

Crews on Wednesday were able to survey the damage caused by the strong storms that contained hail and heavy rains and knocked out power to thousands of utility customers.

In Michigan, weather service meteorologist Nathan Jeruzal said the tornadoes there touched down one each in Kalamazoo, Cass and Branch counties — all in the southwestern part of the state. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for four counties.

Kalamazoo County's Portage area was hard hit as a FedEx facility was ripped apart and more than a dozen mobile homes were destroyed. About 50 people temporarily were trapped inside the damaged facility because of downed power lines.

More than a dozen homes were destroyed in a mobile home park in adjacent Pavilion Township and 16 people were injured, said Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller.

Samantha Smith clutched a box Wednesday afternoon as she stepped from her mother's partially wrecked home in Pavilion Township, about 137 miles west of Detroit. Inside the box were her grandmother's ashes. Being able to recover the most cherished of items offered Smith a rare moment of relief amid the storm's devastation.

Her parents and brother were injured during the storm but survived.

"I have thanked God probably a billion times since this happened yesterday," she said. "My kids are healthy and good. We just gotta make back up what we lost."

Travis Wycoff ventured out Tuesday night after seeing on radar that a tornado had touched down in the Portage area, and he said he helped an elderly couple out of their partially collapsed home and freed a service dog from a home.

"There were a lot of people running through the streets trying to find people and their pets," Wycoff said. "It was just a lot of chaos."

In southern Indiana, the National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down early Wednesday, damaging homes in a subdivision north of the city of Sellersburg, located about 12 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky.

The Clark County Emergency Management Agency said the storm damaged 24 structures.

Candice Holmes, a resident of the Lewis & Clark subdivision north of Sellersburg, said she, her husband and son sought shelter in their bathroom when they heard the approaching storm and "the wind just picked up all at once."

"It was definitely a scary moment. ... And I'm glad we're alive," Holmes told WDRB-TV.

Tornadoes were also confirmed in Pennsylvania just outside Pittsburgh, in central Arkansas and in northern West Virginia. The West Virginia twister, which started early Wednesday in far eastern Ohio, was at least the 11th tornado this year in the state that sees two tornadoes in an average year.

Baseball-sized hail was reported Wednesday in areas just southwest of St. Louis, Missouri. Heavy downpours caused flash flooding and at least one water rescue near Sullivan, a town that was struck by a small tornado just two days earlier. Damaging hail also was reported in the Kansas City area.

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