Weather

Southeast storms: Fifth person reported dead as severe weather moves east

Will Carr reports from Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

 

A powerful storm system tearing through the Southeast killed a fifth person Monday after it flipped a mobile home in South Carolina, emergency officials announced.

The storm could still unleash tornadoes and powerful wind gusts Monday from parts of Georgia to the Carolinas, forecasters have warned.

In Whitmire, S.C., an hour's drive northwest of Columbia, the storms flipped the mobile home multiple times, killing a man inside, Union County Sheriff David Taylor told Fox Carolina.

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Johnny Thomas, the mayor of Glendora, Miss., which is about 140 miles north of Jackson, told Fox News heavy winds caused a massive tree to fall onto his home and, suddenly, his house went dark. Though he crawled out alive with minor injuries, his wife did not survive.

"Sitting here looking at TV my wife and I hear a loud wind and looked like it was instant – just a loud wind,” Thomas said. A few seconds later, he said, his wife was trapped under the fallen roof.

Flooding forces just under 60 residents to be evacuate to a nearby hotel. Local authorities used boats to transport people to dry land.

 

Bill Parker, the meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service of Jackson said the weather began improving but flooding was still a concern.

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“When you have an extraordinary meteorological event like we had last night that produces a lot of rainfall it leads to a hydrological event,” Parker said on Monday, “so now we’re looking at how our rivers are going to rise, how our lakes are going to rise based on that heavy amount of rainfall we received last night.”

In Louisiana, a mother and her 3-year-old daughter were killed Sunday morning when a tornado flipped their mobile home off its foundation. The following morning, a Fisher-Price tricycle with yellow handles and purple wheels sat outside the wreckage. It was a visual reminder of just how quickly tornados can strike.

Francine Gotch, 38, and her daughter, Neville Alexander, were inside the trailer when the storm hit the rural community of Breaux Bridge, about 50 miles west of Baton Rouge, St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office Maj. Ginny Higgins said.

"It hit the trailer, flipped it and tore its side off," Higgins said.

Alexander's dad had gone to the grocery store just before the storm occurred and arrived back home to find Gotch and his daughter dead, witnesses told KLFY-TV.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards put the entire state on “high alert” and urged residents to stay off the roads. He told people that their cellphones should be charged and close by so they can receive urgent weather alerts through Monday.

"It is an extremely dangerous weather event," he said.

In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant confirmed the deaths of two people in the state.

Jacqueline Williams, 52, was in the process of running a newspaper delivery route when her car slid off a road into a creek in her hometown of Florence before dawn Monday, authorities said. She dialed 911 from the car as it went down, said Rankin County Coroner David Ruth.

Ruth said Williams was trying to relay her location to a dispatcher as the car settled into the swirling waters. "She was trying to tell the dispatcher where she was, and she could actually hear the sirens."

The two lost contact, and Ruth said a swift-water recovery team later found Williams' body in the creek outside the car.

In Jackson, Miss., about 60 people were evacuated to a nearby hotel because of rising flood waters. Local authorities used boats to transport people to dry land.  

Another hard-hit area was Alexandria, La., where winds blew off the roof of a gas station and knocked out power to thousands, KALB-TV reported. Customers and storm employees sought shelter in a beer cooler.

Authorities are asking for residents to have a plan in place – pick a room without windows or many doors, keep your cell phone charged and if you live in a mobile home try to find another place to stay during large storm systems.

Fire officials in the Texas village of Point Venture said several people witnessed an apparent funnel cloud there Sunday morning. Travis County Emergency Services District 1 Fire Chief Donnie Norman said there were several structures with severe damage.

"There was one home with pretty heavy damage. The roof was completely removed. There was one resident there at the time, but she received no major injuries," Norman said.

A Texas state trooper reported seeing a suspected tornado touch down early Sunday morning near Center Point, Texas, about 55 miles northwest of San Antonio, Texas. National Weather Service meteorologist Yvette Benavides said there were no reports of major or structural damage.

Fox News' Will Carr, Matt Finn, Willie James Inman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.