Powerful storms kill at least 18 in southern US
TAMPA, FloridaA dangerous weekend weather system killed at least 18 people in the U.S. South, with Georgia officials reporting more than a dozen deaths on Jan. 22, after severe thunderstorms and tornadoes buffeted several states.
Seven people died in Cook County, Georgia, state emergency managers said, with a mobile home park particularly hard hit, according to reports. Photos seen by Reuters showed collapsed buildings, destroyed rooftops, toppled trees and debris-littered fields.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared an emergency for seven counties in the south-central part of the state, warning that dangerous conditions persisted as wind and flood warnings remained in effect for much of the state early on Jan. 23.
“I urge all Georgians to exercise caution and vigilance in order to remain safe and prevent further loss of life or injuries,” Deal said in a news release.
First Baptist Church Adel, located in the Cook County seat near the Florida-Georgia state line, was sheltering more than 50 people, said pastor Bill Marlette, who had just helped inform a family that two of their relatives were among the dead.
“There’s a lot of hurting people right now,” he said in a telephone interview. “There’s just a sense of shock.”
The storms in Georgia, which killed 14 people, followed a predawn tornado in Mississippi on Jan. 21 that killed four. Severe weather also injured more than 50 others and damaged about 480 homes in Mississippi.
A few storms continued to threaten coastal areas in Georgia on late Jan. 22, said Mark McKinnon, a spokesman for the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for Rome and Calhoun, advising residents to move to higher ground.
The system prompted forecasters to issue a rare “high risk” warning of severe storms threatening parts of southern Georgia, north and central Florida and Alabama on Jan. 22, the first such warning since 2014. South Carolina could also see severe weather.
In Alabama, some 29,000 power outages were reported as of the afternoon of Jan. 22, Alabama Power said. Several thousand had also been without power in Mississippi.
Meanwhile, the third and most powerful in a series of storms pounded Southern California, dropping nearly 4 inches of rain south of Los Angeles, flooding freeways and raising concerns about damaging mudslides, The Associated Press reported.
Commuters met with a messy drive to work on Jan. 23 in several areas, with rainfall expected to ease slightly but not taper off until Jan. 24.
Flash flood watches and warnings were in effect for swaths of greater Los Angeles and across Southern California where multiple roads were closed Jan. 22 or blocked by fallen trees.