By The Associated Press
EDOM, Texas (AP) — Violent weather ripped through the South for a second straight night, killing at least seven people from Arkansas to Alabama, damaging homes in a rural Texas community and spreading destruction into Georgia and Tennessee.
The latest round of severe weather Tuesday night and early Wednesday came after a series of powerful storms killed 10 people in Arkansas and one in Mississippi.
A police officer on a camping trip was killed while shielding his daughter when the storm ripped through a state park in northern Mississippi. The victim, from Covington, La., was not immediately identified.
“He covered his daughter with his body when the storm came through to protect her. A tree limb fell and hit him in the head, killing him. The daughter was not hurt. She was still at the campground waiting for family to arrive,” Choctaw County, Miss., Coroner Keith Coleman said.
Also in Mississippi, a man was crushed in his mobile home when a tree fell during the storm and a truck driver died after hitting a downed tree on a state highway. None of the victims have been identified.
In north Alabama, one person died when a tree fell on a car. A Cullman County sheriff’s spokesman said emergency responders were working to free another person from the car. Pell City emergency managers said at least two people died in St. Clair County in central Alabama.
The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management confirmed early Wednesday that one person died in a storm in Sharp County. Officials said the person was in a home near Arkansas Highway 230 but didn’t know exactly how the person died or whether a tornado had touched down in the area.
In Louisiana, police were investigating if two deaths in Monroe were storm-related. The body of a woman was found early Wednesday in a vehicle that had become trapped in a flooded underpass and the body of a man was found later on a flooded street.
Severe storms in northwest Georgia downed trees, blew out windows in a hospital and torn off part of a school roof. Much of north and central Georgia was bracing for another round of thunderstorms later Wednesday. A tornado watch has been issued.
In eastern Tennessee, what appeared to be a tornado struck just outside Chattanooga in Tiftonia, at the base of the tourist peak Lookout Mountain.
Angela Milchack, 29, had just dropped off her son at Lookout Valley Elementary School. Students took cover and none were hurt.
“It just sounded like the wind was blowing really, really hard,” she said.
Tops were snapped off trees and insulation and metal roof panels littered the ground Police officers walked down the street, spray-painting symbols at houses they had checked for people who might be inside.
The National Weather Service had issued a high-risk warning for severe weather from northeast of Memphis to just northeast of Dallas and covering a large swath of Arkansas. It last issued such a warning on April 16, when dozens of tornadoes hit North Carolina and killed 21 people.
Emergency management officials in Alabama said two suspected tornadoes touched down in Marshall County, about 70 miles northeast of Birmingham, causing widespread injuries and damage.
“There are people trapped in mobile homes, in vehicles. We’ve got trees down all over, power lines down all over. It’s all over the county,” said Phil Mayer, working in the county emergency management office.
The weather service didn’t immediately confirm twister damage, but forecasters had issued several tornado warnings and said winds blew as hard as 70 mph, just short of hurricane force.
High winds also damaged a hangar at the Birmingham airport.
Dozens of tornado warnings were issued in Arkansas throughout the night. Strong winds peeled part of the roof off of a medical building next to a hospital in West Memphis, near the Tennessee border, but no one was inside.
At least one person was injured when a storm slammed through the tiny town of Edom some 75 miles east of Dallas late Tuesday, said Fire Chief Eddie Wood. Witnesses described seeing what they thought was a tornado rolling the woman’s mobile home with her inside.
A video shot by the Tyler Morning Telegraph showed emergency responders covering the injured woman to shield her from rain and hail. Her mobile home was reduced to a pile of debris in the road.
“We have multiple houses damaged or destroyed,” said Chuck Allen, Van Zandt County emergency management spokesman. He said he would survey the area by helicopter Wednesday to get an accurate count.
Ted Ryan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, said at least one tornado almost certainly hit between Edom and the town of Van to the north. He said the weather service would send a team to the area Wednesday to assess the damage and determine the strength of the storm.
At daybreak Wednesday, residents on the outskirts of the small, rural community started to clear up the damage from the storm. The area was littered with uprooted trees, some had split in half and others landed on homes.
Rhonda Modesitt, 45, said she and her 15-year-old son watched the tornado approach their duplex.
“You could see lumber and stuff swirling in it,” Modesitt said as she swept up broken glass from patio furniture that was smashed in the storm. “You could hear it coming through and then it got real still.”
Heavy rain prompted the evacuation of a military base near Memphis, Tenn. Military officials moved 122 personnel from the naval support base at Millington to hotels after a stream began flooding a low-lying section of the base, WMC-TV reported.
Thunderstorms with high winds and possible tornadoes caused tree and power line damage from Bastrop, La., to Tishomingo County in northeastern Mississippi late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service’s office in Jackson, Miss.
Officials reported minor injuries in northwestern Louisiana when a trailer at an oil drilling site turned over in high winds in Bossier Parish. In nearby Webster Parish, Sheriff’s Deputy Chuck Warford said there were reports of downed trees and power lines and some damage to roofs.
The latest round of storms moved through as communities in much of the region struggled with flooding and damage from earlier twisters. In Arkansas, a tornado smashed Vilonia, just north of Little Rock, on Monday night, ripping the roof off the grocery store, flattening homes and tossing vehicles into the air. Four people were killed in Vilonia, and six died in flooding elsewhere in the state. In Mississippi, a 3-year-old girl was killed when a storm toppled a tree onto her home.
Associated Press writers Andrew DeMillo and Nomaan Merchant in Vilonia, Ark., Jack Elliott Jr. in Jackson, Miss., Bill Fuller in New Orleans and Terry Wallace in Dallas contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.