MERMET, Ill. – Residents across southern Illinois picked up what they could salvage from their wrecked homes and braced for more bad weather as tornadoes (search) loomed in the forecast.
At least four tornadoes hit southern Illinois late Tuesday and early Wednesday, killing two people, injuring at least 20 and destroying or damaging scores of homes in three counties.
"It's a very, very rural area so the damage is very spread out," said Bill Burke, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (search). Gov. Rod Blagojevich was considering declaring the region a state disaster area.
In Mermet, the trailer of retired hospice worker Mariam Houchins, 65, was wrapped around tree trunks; her body was found in a ravine. A few miles away in the town of Grand Chain, Steve Kohn, 53, also died after a tornado damaged his house, said Pulaski County Coroner Lisa Tarpley.
Between the lashing rain and storms, residents of the Midwest and Southeast were trying to clean up. A deadly series of tornadoes touched down across the region on Sunday, leaving 40 people dead.
Tornadoes early Wednesday also hit Texas, Georgia, northeastern Mississippi and Downsville, La., but no serious injuries were reported. High wind and heavy rain also hit parts of Arkansas and Alabama, where officials closed schools and some churches canceled midweek services.
Severe weather could return to southern Illinois Thursday afternoon, bringing heavy rain and more tornadoes, said meteorologist Greg Meffert with the National Weather Service (search) in Paducah, Ky.
In eastern Tennessee, which has been drenched by rain since Sunday, flooding forced Chattanooga residents to take emergency shelter as the Tennessee River rose to its highest level in 30 years. The Tennessee Valley Authority said some 480 homes and other structures could be flooded and damage could reach $17 million.
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley declared a state of emergency in Jefferson County, which was deluged by flooding and wind damage. More than 5 inches of rain fell at the Birmingham airport in six hours.
The death toll from the weekend's storms stood at 18 in Missouri, 15 in Tennessee and seven in Kansas. The last person listed as missing in Pierce City, Mo., turned up safe Wednesday.
Among the Missouri victims was an infant who was pulled from his father's arms at a trailer park in Monett, the child's grandfather said. Four-month-old Jacob Aldaba Rueda died Sunday night at a Joplin hospital.
The family had moved to the area only two weeks ago, Felipe Rueda said.
"They had saved up $7,000, but it was in the trailer," Rueda said. "It's gone. They can't find anything at all."
The Insurance Information Institute, a trade association based in New York City, said Wednesday that the tornadoes could cost insurers at least $325 million.