Violent storms killed one person in Texas and another in Georgia on Tuesday as hail pelted communities and high winds knocked trees into power poles elsewhere in the South. Authorities issued a flurry of tornado warnings at the start of what could be two days of violent weather in the region.
In eastern Texas, W. M. Soloman, 71, died when storm winds toppled a tree onto Solomon's home in Whitehouse, about 100 miles southeast of Dallas, Whitehouse Mayor James Wansley said. Officials said at least four homes in the area had trees fall on them.
Another person was killed after a possible tornado touched down in Pembroke, Georgia, county coroner Bill Cox said. A woman was killed when a mobile home was hit by the possible tornado, according to Cox.
Carter Infinger, chairman of the Bryan County Commission, said some buildings in the Pembroke area were damaged, but he wasn't sure if there was more widespread destruction. He said cellphone service was down in parts of the county.
"It looks like a tornado touched down up there and did some damage to our administrative building and the courthouse roof," Infinger said. "We've had no injuries to our county staff that we know of."
Matthew Kent, a Bryan County government spokesman, said several others were injured in the county 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Savannah.
Gage Moore, 23, of Midway, Georgia, was driving home from work Tuesday evening on Interstate 16 in the county where Pembroke is located when his fiancée called to tell him she heard tornado sirens. About two minutes later, Moore said, he looked up to see a towering twister looming to the left of the highway. Moore said he pulled over and stopped his car behind an overpass, then took cellphone video of the funnel cloud churning across the interstate.
"Everybody started slamming on brakes all around me," Moore said. "I could actually feel my truck shaking back and forth and hear the roar of it passing by." He added: "Thankfully we all stopped and left a huge gap in the interstate where it crossed."
Once the tornado passed, Moore continued his commute home. He said he could tell where the twister crossed the highway because it had mangled an exit sign and left damaged trees behind. "Some were bent and some were broken, the tops were broken out of them," Moore said.
More than 50,000 homes and businesses were without power Tuesday afternoon from eastern Texas to South Carolina. No injuries were reported, but the National Weather Service issued a nonstop stream of tornado warnings for hours as the storm system tore across Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
In South Carolina, Allendale County Manager William Goodson said a tornado, captured in a video on social media, caused damage in his rural county, but exactly how much and whether there were any injuries were unknown.
"I know we have buildings damaged and power lines down," Goodson said. "My deputies and emergency officials are out there assessing it."
Debate was also delayed for nearly an hour in the South Carolina legislature after the state House chamber was evacuated for a tornado warning for Columbia. The legislation being debated would require athletes to compete with the gender listed on their birth certificates.
The weather service said it was sending survey teams to examine potential tornado damage in Wetumpka, Alabama. Lightning struck a flea market in the north Alabama community of Lacey's Spring, causing a fire that gutted the building, news outlets reported, and rising water in Mobile Bay covered part of a ramp on Interstate 10.
Fallen trees and limbs closed a stretch of highway for several hours in Newton County, Mississippi. As the line of storms pushed into Georgia, a large tree fell and crashed through the roof of Marie Jordan's home in metro Atlanta, coming down in the living room, kitchen and garage.
"It just took everything," Jordan told local station WSB-TV. "For years and years, I have watched that tree."
Elsewhere in Texas, one person was injured when the storms swept through Johnson County, about 40 miles southwest of Dallas. Brittaney Deaton said she became trapped in an RV trailer behind her family's home after the trailer flipped over. She said her stepfather got injured trying to free her.
"I was screaming on the phone. I couldn't get out. I was terrified," Deaton told local station KDFW-TV. "And I felt like I was just trapped, like it was going to roll with me in it. And I just thank God that I got out."
Her mother, Amber Zeleny, said her husband suffered injuries to his nose, leg and ribs but that he was expected to recover.
The threat of damaging weather will move to the north on Wednesday, forecasters said, with severe storms possible across an area stretching from western Alabama to the western tip of the Carolinas. More than 10 million people in metro areas including Atlanta; Birmingham; and Chattanooga, Tennessee, will be at risk, the Storm Prediction Center said.
Springtime often brings strong storms to the Southeast, and the region has faced a barrage of weather recently that included a tornado last month in metro New Orleans, where one person died, and storms that killed at least two people in the Florida Panhandle last week.
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