Severe storms that included at least two confirmed tornadoes injured several people on Wednesday, damaged houses and businesses and downed power lines in Mississippi and Tennessee after they spread damage in Arkansas, Missouri and Texas overnight before moving to the deep south.
No deaths had been reported from the storms as of Wednesday evening, officials said. About 185,000 customers were without electricity on Thursday morning in the wake of the storm along a band of states: Mississippi and Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio and Michigan, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utilities.
In Nashville, Tennessee, paneling fell five stories from the side of a downtown hotel on Wednesday evening and on to the roof of a building below. The fire department warned the debris could become airborne as high winds continued, and some hotel guests were moved to other parts of the building due to concerns that the roof would become unstable. No injuries were immediately associated with the collapse.
A warehouse roof collapsed as the storms moved through Southaven, Mississippi, near Memphis, police said. The building had been evacuated and no injuries were reported.
The Mississippi senate suspended its work as weather sirens blared during a tornado watch in downtown Jackson. Some employees took shelter in the capitol basement.
Rander P Adams said his and his wife, Janice Delores Adams, were in their home near downtown Jackson when severe weather blew through during a tornado warning on Wednesday afternoon. He said their lights flashed and they heard a loud whistling noise.
As Janice Adams tried to open their front door, a large window exploded a few feet from her.
“The glass broke just as if someone threw a brick through it,” he said. “I advised her then, ‘Let’s go to the back of the house.“‘
The National Weather Service rated the Springdale, Arkansas tornado “at EF-3″, which means wind speeds bewteen 136-165 mph (218-266 kph). The monster twister injured at least seven people, two seriously, and damaged homes and a school.
“Search and rescue teams have been deployed, as there are significant damages and injuries,” the Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson, said.
Strong winds in Louisiana overturned semitrailers, peeled the roof from a mobile home, sent a tree crashing into a house and knocked down power lines, according to weather service forecasters, who did not immediately confirm any tornadoes in the state.
Schools in Memphis and dozens in Mississippi had closed early or switched to online instruction as a precaution against crowding children into buildings or buses.
Shelters were opened in Mississippi, and in Louisiana, the Federal Emergency Management Agency advised people living in trailers after Hurricane Ida to be ready to evacuate.
Elsewhere across the South, at least two people were killed, and two others were injured on the morning of March 31 when a tornado touched down just west of Tallahassee, near the town of Alford in the Florida Panhandle. [Guardian, AP]
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