Authorities say at least 11 people have died as severe storms sweep across parts of the South, bringing high winds and unrelenting rain.
The Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana said on Facebook that the bodies of an elderly couple, Jerry W. Franks, 79, and Mary Sue Franks, 65, were found Saturday near their demolished trailer by firefighters. A search for more possible victims was underway. First responders were searching through mud and debris for other victims, the sheriff's office said on Facebook.
That brings the storm-related death toll in the state to three after a man was killed when a tree fell on his home in Caddo Parish. The Sheriff’s Office also said the roof of Benton Middle School was damaged and “that water damage from the sprinkler system has flooded many rooms.”
There are three confirmed fatalities near Carrollton, Alabama, according to the National Weather Service in Birmingham.
Two first responders were killed and another critically injured in Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday morning after they were hit by a vehicle while working the scene of a traffic accident in icy conditions, officials said.
Police Officer Nicholas Reyna, 27, who had been with the department for one year, died at the scene. Firefighter Lt. David Hill, 39, was taken to a local hospital, where he later died. Firefighter Matthew Dawson, 30, was hospitalized in critical condition.
Late Saturday, the National Weather Service and authorities in Nacogdoches County, Texas, confirmed a man identified as Harry Hadnot, Jr., 44, was found dead at the scene after a tree fell and struck a home in that community, according to NBC News.
An Oklahoma man drowned Saturday after he was swept away from his stalled truck by floodwaters from severe storms that hit the state and other parts of the South, officials said.
Randall Hyatt was in his Chevy pickup near Kiowa, Oklahoma, when he drove into deep floodwaters, causing his vehicle to become inoperable, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
Hyatt, 58, of Wardville, Oklahoma, was overrun by rushing water after exiting his truck.
His body was found about 100 yards from his vehicle at 8:15 a.m. Saturday. Investigators did not immediately know what time he drowned.
A tornado watch was issued for much of North Georgia until 9 p.m.
In Mississippi, straight-line wind reportedly knocked at least 30 train cars off the tracks.
Early Saturday, at least seven tractor-trailers reportedly were blown over along Interstate 40 in Wheatley, Arkansas, according to a reporter. All lanes were blocked.
Memphis, Tennessee, also reported damage from the storms.
Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas on Saturday morning were clear of the severe thunderstorms that had passed through the night before. One person died Friday night in Texas when a car flipped into a creek in Dallas. Additionally, lightning from Friday’s stormy weather is suspected of causing two house fires in the North Texas cities of Burleson and Mansfield. Officials said no one was injured.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Mississippi early Saturday. Homes were damaged or destroyed in Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas on Friday, but no injuries were reported. Downed trees and power lines were widespread.
According to PowerOutage.us, Louisiana and Mississippi had more than 54,000 power outages. Entergy Arkansas reported nearly 42,000 power outages Saturday morning, mostly in the southeastern part of the state. Southwestern Electric Power Co. reported nearly 5,000 customers in East Texas were without power Saturday morning.
The national Storm Prediction Center said more than 18 million people in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma were at an enhanced risk of storms, including from strong tornadoes, flooding rains and wind gusts that could exceed 80 mph, the speed of a Category 1 hurricane. The area included several major Texas cities including Dallas, Houston and Austin.
There was a tornado warning Friday night near William P. Hobby Airport in Houston.
The most significant damage reportedly was on Houston’s south side.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation reported Saturday morning that portions of several highways in the southeastern part of the state were closed due to flooding. The Arkansas Department of Transportation reported that portions of several state highways across the state, particularly in the southeastern portion, were closed due to downed trees and power lines and to flooding.
On Alabama’s Gulf Coast, Baldwin County canceled school activities including sporting events for Saturday. The weather service warned of flooding and the potential for 10-foot waves on beaches, where Northern visitors escaping the cold are a common sight during the winter.
Many streams already are at or near flood levels because of earlier storms, and heavy rains could lead to flash flooding across the region, forecasters said. Parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana were under flash flood warnings or watches Saturday.
On Friday, a tornado destroyed two homes near Fair Play, Missouri, about 35 miles northwest of Springfield. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said no injuries were reported.
Shortly before 3 p.m. Friday, a tornado stripped the shingles from the roof of a home near Tahlequah, Oklahoma, about 60 miles southeast of Tulsa. No injuries were reported there, either.
What the NWS described as “a confirmed large and extremely dangerous tornado” roared through parts of Logan County, Arkansas, about 45 miles east of Fort Smith on Friday night.
At least three homes were destroyed by the Arkansas tornado, said Logan County Emergency Management Coordinator Tobi Miller, but no injuries were reported. Downed trees and power lines were widespread, she said.
Miller said the tornado skirted her home in Subiaco, Arkansas. She said she heard but couldn’t see the rain-wrapped twister in the dark.
Ahead of the storms, Dallas’ Office of Emergency Management asked residents to bring in pets, outdoor furniture, grills, “and anything else that could be caught up in high winds to reduce the risk of flying debris.”
“Trampolines are very easy to loft into the air during high winds,” said Matt Hemingway, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Shreveport, Louisiana. “Anything outside that could be blown around could become a projectile.”
“We’re pretty much right in the crosshairs,” Hemingway said of Shreveport. “Damaging winds are our biggest concern because of the widespread nature of that threat, with tornadoes not far behind that.”
Northern cities, including Chicago and Milwaukee, also were dealing with severe weather.
In Wisconsin, a winter storm was expected to bring several inches of snow, icy road conditions and high winds, making weekend travel hazardous, state emergency officials said.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for a stretch of the state including Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay, with another round of snowfall expected Saturday afternoon and evening. Saturday’s snowfall alone is expected to bring 3 inches to 7 inches, along with considerable blowing and drifting snow.
Rich Barak of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.
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