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At Least 17 Dead as Severe Storms Hit Deep South

BOONE'S CHAPEL, Alabama -- Vicious storms and howling winds smacked the U.S. South, killing at least seven people in Alabama including three family members whose homes were tossed into nearby woods.

The storms that smacked the Midwest and South with howling winds and pounding rain left 17 people dead in four states -- the nation's deadliest storm of the season.

Henley Hollon said Saturday that his 65-year-old brother, Willard Hollon, lived across the street from him in the Boone's Chapel community about 25 miles from Montgomery. Henley Hollon said Willard Hollon and Willard's two adult children, Steve and Cheryl, were killed when the storms roared through.

Henley Hollon said he had been watching the weather forecast on television -- and thought the worst was over when the winds started to pick up.

"It got up real fast. The lights went out," he said. "We had to feel our way into the hall. It lasted less than a minute."

He then went outside to check on the limbs down in his yard and walked across the road to check on his brother.

"When I shined the light out there I could see it was all gone," Henley Hollon said. Two mobile homes had been ripped from their foundations, and all that remained Saturday morning were wooden steps and flowerbeds.

"The trailer was anchored down and the anchors are gone," said Autauga County Chief Deputy Sheriff Joe Sedinger. "But the steps are still there and the blooms are still on the flowers."

Seven people were hurt in the storm, including a firefighter injured during the emergency response, Sedinger said. He said the storm hopscotched for several miles, leaving some areas devastated and others untouched.

In Alabama's Washington County, about 50 miles north of Mobile, a mother and her two teenage sons died when the storm demolished their mobile home, said county coroner Rickey Davidson.

The woman's husband survived and was in the hospital, he said. Winds had thrown things 100 yard from where the home had stood.

"It was not a pretty sight," Davidson said.

Another death was reported in Mississippi's Greene County, said Jeff Rent, a spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. He did not have further details, and the Greene County Sheriff's Office did not immediately return a phone message Saturday. Management Agency.

The system had already destroyed or damaged dozens of homes, businesses and churches Friday afternoon in Mississippi, where crews worked to clear roads, find shelter for displaced families and restore power.

In Marengo County in west-central Alabama, four separate tornadoes hit over the span of about five to six hours, emergency management director Kevin McKinney said.

A mobile home that had been tossed was a pile of rubble, along with another 30 homes or businesses that were destroyed, McKinney said. Four people had minor injuries.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency for the entire state, and the first race of a busy weekend at the Talladega Superspeedway was postponed until Saturday morning.

The storms began late Thursday in Oklahoma, where at least five tornadoes touched down and two people were killed. The system then pushed into Arkansas, killing seven more. Dozens of others were hurt.

By midday Friday, the storms had marched into Tennessee, Louisiana and later into Georgia. At least three twisters touched down in Mississippi, where a state of emergency was declared in 14 counties, causing widespread damage but only one serious injury.

The hardest hit was Clinton, a city of about 26,000 people just west of Jackson, the state capital. At least seven people were taken by ambulance to hospitals with injuries.