Two people were killed due to the storms, tornadoes and incessant flooding that descended upon communities across the Deep South late Wednesday and Thursday.
Brooke Sampson, a teacher in Sevierville, Tennessee, was killed when a tree fell on a van she was sitting in Thursday afternoon, according to a report by Nashville station WTVF. Four others, including her husband Michael Sampson, were also injured when the tree fell on the City of Sevierville van. Flooding had hit the area as the families were returning from a business conference.
“The City of Sevierville family asks that your thoughts and prayers be with Michael Sampson and his family, and the families of the injured employees,” the City of Sevierville posted on Facebook. “We respectfully ask for your understanding as we grieve as a City family during this difficult time.”
A flash flood emergency for Greenville, South Carolina, was issued by the National Weather Service, according to a reporter.
In west central Alabama late Wednesday, one person was killed and another was injured, as a round of deadly storms and tornadoes ripped through Marengo County, Alabama.
Tornadoes and widespread damage were reported in North and South Carolina on Thursday. About 4 p.m. Thursday, about 30 employees at a business in Greenville County, South Carolina, were reported trapped inside a business, according to news station WSPA.
Tornadoes were reported in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, and Belmont, North Carolina.
Tornado sirens reportedly were heard about 1:10 p.m. at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
In Georgia, a number of school districts closed early or canceled classes Thursday, according to media reports.
More than 80,000 homes and businesses were without power from North Carolina to Florida, according to poweroutage.us. North Carolina experienced the greatest widespread outages, according to the site, with about 38,000 people without power in the state. Georgia still had about 22,000 people without power as of Thursday afternoon.
In Spartanburg, South Carolina, a possible tornado knocked down utility wires and poles and scattered debris in the Westgate area of the city. The city’s primary energy provider, Duke Power, reported 13,000 people were without power.
Tornado and flood watches covered large parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Florida Panhandle on Thursday morning. Storms north and east of metro Atlanta, including in the suburb of Lawrenceville, prompted tornado warnings Thursday morning. Some schools in the area had children huddle in hallways as the weather moved through.
A winter storm has hit central parts of the country, with snowfall reported as far south as El Paso, Texas, as of Wednesday evening. Severe weather, including tornadoes and torrential rainfall, is expected across the Deep South, forecasters said.
Winter storm warnings or advisories were in effect from eastern New Mexico to the St. Louis metropolitan area, the National Weather Service said. The Storm Prediction Center said storms that could generate hail, 60 mph winds and twisters were possible across much of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The threat extended into border regions of Tennessee and Georgia, and forecasters said bad weather could continue after dark.
South, Central Georgia schools closing
According to Georgia news stations WCTV and WMAZ, Quitman County, Stewart County, Decatur County, Seminole County, Terrell County, Miller County and Wheeler County, Dodge County, Dooly County and Clay County schools will be closed Thursday due to the threat of severe storms.
Other schools planned to have a shorter school day Thursday, including school systems in Colquitt County, Turner County, Irwin County, Telfair County, Twiggs County, Dougherty County, Wilkinson County and Baker County. Check your school system’s website for details on times.
Though there were no reports of schools closing, weather conditions took a turn in metro Atlanta early Thursday. Intense rain, strong wind gusts and isolated “spin-up tornadoes” could come through parts of Atlanta and North Georgia, according to Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Katie Walls.
Where did storms hit so far?
At least one person died in the aftermath of the storms that moved through Alabama early Thursday. The victim died and one person was injured when high winds destroyed two mobile homes near the town of Demopolis, the Storm Prediction Center reported. It wasn’t immediately clear whether a tornado was to blame.
Tree limbs and fences were toppled when a possible tornado hit the Birmingham suburb of Helena, officials said, and some roads and parking lots were covered by floodwaters. Downtown streets also flooded near the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
More than 5 inches of rain fell in the Tennessee Valley region, and forecasters said more than 6 inches could fall near the Alabama-Georgia line. At least 40 Alabama school systems shut down or opened late as a precaution to allow time for the storms to pass.
North Carolina/South Carolina
Torrential downpours, gusty winds and rising floodwaters are expected in parts of South and North Carolina, where tornado watches were in effect until 5 p.m., according to media reports and the National Weather Service.
Rounds of rain hit that area earlier this week, so area flooding was expected for Thursday. Rainfall will range between 3 to 4 inches near Charlotte and the South Carolina border, with some isolated areas seeing more precipitation.
El Paso International Airport recorded 2 inches of snow Wednesday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist David Hefner, who said the city averages 6.9 inches of snow per season.
Hefner said the snow tends to melt quickly.
“We can get 4-5 inches overnight, and it's generally gone by the next afternoon,” Hefner said.
The weather service forecast sunny skies and a high of about 50 degrees for El Paso on Thursday.
The winter storm caused a multi-vehicle pileup Wednesday on an Interstate 70 bridge in central Missouri but mostly missed a parade to celebrate the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl win.
The National Weather Service initially predicted 2 to 3 inches of snowfall along the parade route. But National Weather Service meteorologist Jimmy Barham said the storm shifted slightly, sparing fans from all but a few flurries.
Snowfall was heavier to the east, where several tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles collided about noon on a bridge that spans the Missouri River near Rocheport, shutting down westbound traffic on the interstate. Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Scott White said at least one person was taken from the scene in an ambulance.
The Missouri Department of Transportation warned drivers against traveling in the storm amid worsening road conditions.
As the storm hit, University of Missouri officials announced that no classes would be held after 1 p.m., and Jefferson City closed its city offices at 10 a.m.
In Oklahoma, the state House and Senate closed due to snowy weather, and the annual anti-abortion Rose Day rally that typically draws hundreds to the state Capitol was postponed.
Highway Patrol troopers worked more than two dozen accidents in the Oklahoma City area early Wednesday, including some with injuries, after several inches of snow fell overnight, said Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Sarah Stewart.
“The biggest impact has been snarled traffic from jack-knifed semis,” Stewart said.
In Arkansas, forecasters said up to a quarter-inch of ice and 1 to 3 inches of snow were possible in the northwest part of the state. The remainder of the state was expected to get heavy rain Wednesday.
Snow also was expected to extend into Illinois, Michigan and other parts of the Midwest on Wednesday and Thursday before reaching the Northeast by Friday, the weather service said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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