Deep South Tornado Outbreak: 2 Dead From Spinning In The Dark | Lifestyle

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A twister emerging from darkness tore through a small Alabama community early Wednesday during an outbreak of tornadoes in the Deep South, killing a 39-year-old woman and her 8-year-old son on a street where generations had lived from a family.

One of dozens of tornadoes sparked by a severe weather front that spent two days ripping from East Texas through several southern states, the storm jolted people from their sleep in Flatwood, a sparsely populated community not far from Alabama’s state capital, Montgomery .

In the early morning darkness, family members emerged from their shattered homes to the sounds of screams. Several homes in their community had been hit by falling trees, and a large pine tree crushed the bedroom of the mobile home where a father, mother and son were believed to be sleeping.

“The tree came crashing down in the middle of the bed while they were sleeping. It fell on the wife and the child,” family member Norman Bennett said of the victims.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said the victims were a 39-year-old woman and her 8-year-old son, but did not release their names. A man, who is the woman’s husband and the boy’s father, was injured and taken to hospital.

Bennett said the man was trapped under the tree and debris and could not see what happened to his wife and child. “He screams. “Find my baby. Find my baby,” Bennett said.

For a Flatwood couple, a split-second decision may have saved them.

Caroline Bankston said she and Tim Wiseman were at home watching the weather and trying to figure out where the twister was when she looked out the living room window and realized it was already above them. They ran to a safer corner as their roof collapsed, burying their couch under the rubble.

“We prayed, we prayed, we prayed, ‘Please, God, Please, take care of us. Please, and he did. You can replace things, but you can’t replace a person,” Bankston said, his voice still shaking. “I was sitting there on the couch. Thank God we moved.”

The storm system fueled by record temperatures spawned dozens of tornadoes Tuesday and early Wednesday as it moved from East Texas through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and neighboring states. Tornadoes damaged homes, destroyed a fire station and tore off the roof of an apartment complex in Mississippi. In Alabama, the same storm system also destroyed a community center and left a mess of downed trees, downed power lines and debris.

A total of 73 tornado warnings and 120 severe thunderstorm warnings were issued from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning, said Matthew Elliott, meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham said a community center in Flatwood, on the same road as the deaths, was destroyed and that search and rescue teams were going door-to-door Wednesday to respond to all residents.

“We have mobile homes that have been overturned. We have mobile homes that have had trees fall on them. There’s a lot of damage out there, a lot of power lines that are down,” Cunningham said.

The National Weather Service office in Birmingham classified the Flatwood storm as an EF-2 tornado, with winds estimated at 115 mph (185 km/h).

Isaiah Sankey, who represents Flatwood as vice chairman of the Montgomery County Commission, expressed grief for the lives lost. He promised that installing storm shelters would be a priority.

“When we rebuild, we will have storm shelters,” Sankey said.

Elsewhere in the west Alabama town of Eutaw, large sections of the roof were missing from an apartment complex, displacing 15 families in the middle of the night, and power lines and trees were “all over the road,” Eutaw Police Chief Tommy Johnson said. WBRC-TV said.

A suspected tornado also damaged numerous homes overnight in Hale County, Alabama, where the emergency director said more than a third of people live in extremely vulnerable mobile homes.

“We’ve seen some really nice mobile homes tied up, but they just don’t stand a chance against a tornado,” Hale County Emergency Management Director Russell Weeden told WBRC.

Two other people were injured as the storm destroyed homes in Caldwell Parish, Louisiana, Sheriff Clay Bennett told KNOE-TV.

The weather service confirmed that tornadoes also hit land in Mississippi. Images of the damage in Caledonia showed a damaged grocery store, a destroyed fire station and a collapsed home, but Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency Director Cindy Lawrence told WTVA-TV that everyone escaped injury.

Hailstones smashed into the windows of City Hall in the small town of Tchula, Mississippi, where sirens sounded as the mayor and others took cover. “It was hitting the window and you could tell there were some nice sized balls,” Mayor Ann Polk said.

High winds knocked down power lines and flooding was a danger as more than 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain fell in a few hours in some places. More than 50,000 customers in Mississippi and Alabama were without power at one point Wednesday, according to, which tracks utility outages.

Meteorologists have been warning for several days about a possible outbreak of a tornado. Elliott, who coordinates the warnings, said it took a lot of work to get the word out, and people seemed to be taking the threat seriously. “It’s a very vulnerable part of the country for tornadoes — especially tornadoes after dark,” Elliott said.

Record temperatures in Texas and Louisiana intensified the storm front before it moved into Mississippi and Alabama, forecasters said Wednesday.

Shreveport, Louisiana, warmed to 81 degrees (27.2 Celsius) on Tuesday; and Tyler, Texas, reached 82 degrees (27.8 Celsius), according to the National Weather Service in Shreveport. Both marks broke the old record of 80, set in 1949, the weather service said.

Jeff Martin and Michael Warren in Atlanta; Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas; Michael Goldberg in Jackson, Mississippi; and Sara Cline in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, contributed to this report.

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