MONROE, La. – A storm system swept across the central and southern U.S. on Saturday, bringing tornadoes and wind gusts that ripped roofs from barns and hurled trees into power lines, officials said. At least two people were killed.
A man died after his mobile home overturned in northern Mississippi, said Coahoma County Coroner Scotty Meredith. Another man was killed when his car hit a tree that had fallen across a county road in southeastern Mississippi. A woman who was in the car was critically injured, Jasper County Coroner Randy Graham said.
Wind caused the roof of a fitness center in a strip mall to collapse in Senatobia, 40 miles south of Memphis, Tenn. No injuries were reported.
"I think it buckled the back part of it," Tate County Emergency Management director Kim Brownlee said. "There's water pouring in the back of that place."
At the storm's height, more than 22,000 people lost power in northern Mississippi, though that number was beginning to fall late Saturday night.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of residents lost electricity after heavy rain and strong gusts of up to 60 mph whipped northern Louisiana. Some areas had as much as three inches of rain, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Adams.
High winds ripped the front facade off the Books-a-Million bookstore in the northern town of Monroe, 100 miles east of Shreveport. The area in front of the store was full of storm debris.
To the northwest in Union Parish, Sheriff Dusty Gates said damage was widespread across the parish of 28,000 residents. Trees fell on houses, across roads and on power lines. No injuries were reported by late Saturday, although some areas were cut off and not accessible due to bad weather.
"There are still several areas we have not been able to access to check on," he said.
National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Parker said a possible tornado hit the town of Downsville mid-afternoon on Saturday. The Weather Service has yet to confirm it was a twister.
Downsville Mayor Reggie Skains said a number of barns and chicken houses were damaged on the edge of his village of 250 people, including a barn on his farm.
"We had about a $500,000 barn over there and it blew about half of it away," Skains said by phone.
Downsville resident Albert Mayo said he was napping when the storm came through.
"I thought the roof was going to come off, there was so much pressure," Mayo said.
More than 40,000 customers lost power in northern parts of the state. Claiborne Electric Cooperative saw more than half of its 23,000 customers lose power when a transmission line was blown down, disrupting power to three substations.
In Arkansas, at least five people were injured and two dozen homes were damaged after two apparent tornadoes touched down.
St. Francis County Sheriff's dispatcher Leslie White said a suspected tornado damaged three homes and injured three people late Saturday afternoon near Hughes, a town of roughly 1,400 residents about 35 miles southwest of Memphis, Tenn. She didn't know the severity of the injuries.
David Cox, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Jackson, Miss., said another apparent tornado struck near Dermott, Ark., which is in the far southeast of the state. Two people were injured and about 20 homes were damaged, he said.
The National Weather Service said severe storms with damaging winds were possible early Sunday morning in northern Georgia, including Atlanta. A flood watch for the region was in effect through Monday.
The squall line continued to produce gusty winds as it moved across Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky on Saturday night, with multiple reports of winds stronger than 50 mph. Downed trees and power outages were widespread in those states, as they were in states to the west.
AP reporter Tamara Lush reported from Monroe, La. Jeff Amy reported from Jackson, Miss.