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Tornadoes tear through southeastern US as storms leave 3 dead


COLUMBIA, Tenn. — Forecasters warned a wave of dangerous storms in the U.S. could march through parts of the South early Thursday, after storms a day earlier spawned damaging tornadoes and massive hail, leaving two dead in Tennessee and one dead in North Carolina.

The storms continue an outbreak of torrential rain and tornadoes that has cut across the country this week, from the Plains to the Midwest and now the southeastern U.S. At least four people have died in storms since Monday.

Amid Wednesday’s storms, the National Weather Service continued issuing tornado warnings that stretch past midnight in North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and Kentucky. Parts of Arkansas and Mississippi were also under a tornado watch through the pre-dawn hours.

One storm that rumbled across northeastern Tennessee on Wednesday brought high winds that knocked down power lines and trees. Bob Brooks, the sheriff in Claiborne County about an hour north of Knoxville, said a 22-year-old man was in a car when he was fatally struck by one of the trees.

A second person was killed in the city of Columbia in Maury County, where the National Weather Service said a likely tornado had touched down. Columbia is just south of Nashville.

Homes were damaged and people injured, according to Lynn Thompson, assistant director of Maury County 911. Thompson told The Associated Press that he could not provide any further details: “We’re getting overloaded right now.”

Rita Thompson, a spokesperson for Maury Regional Health, said the hospital had received five patients, including the person who died. Another was in serious condition and three had injuries that were not life-threatening, she said.

The storms also prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to issue a temporary ground stop at Nashville International Airport and the National Weather Service to issue a tornado emergency — its highest alert level — for other nearby areas south of the state’s capital, including Chapel Hill and Eagleville.

Meanwhile, torrential rain and thunderstorms led to water rescues northeast of Nashville.

“Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order,” the National Weather Service warned when it issued a flash flood emergency.

In North Carolina, a state of emergency was declared Wednesday night for Gaston County, west of Charlotte, following a large storm that toppled power lines and severed trees, including one that landed on a car. One person in the car was killed and another was taken to a hospital, officials said.

The storms rolled into the region Wednesday after parts of the central United States were battered Monday by heavy rain, strong winds, hail and tornadoes, including a deadly twister that ripped through an Oklahoma town and killed one person. Then, on Tuesday, the Midwest took the brunt of the bad weather.

The National Weather Service said tornadoes touched down in parts of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana on Tuesday.

In Michigan, tornadoes swirled through the southwestern part of the state, in and around Kalamazoo County, according to the National Weather Service. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for four counties.

Kalamazoo County’s Portage area was hard hit as a FedEx facility was ripped apart, leaving about 50 people temporarily trapped inside because of downed power lines.

Travis Wycoff ventured out Tuesday night after seeing on radar that a tornado had touched down in the Portage area, and he said he helped an elderly couple out of their partially collapsed home and freed a service dog from another home.

“There were a lot of people running through the streets trying to find people and their pets,” Wycoff said. “It was just a lot of chaos.”

In the adjacent Pavilion Township, more than a dozen homes were destroyed in a mobile home park and 16 people were injured, said Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller.

Samantha Smith clutched a box Wednesday afternoon outside her mother’s partially wrecked home in Pavilion Township. Inside the box were her grandmother’s ashes. Being able to recover the most cherished of items offered Smith a rare moment of relief amid the storm’s devastation. She said her parents and brother were injured during the storm but survived.

“I have thanked God probably a billion times since this happened yesterday,” she said. “My kids are healthy and good. We just gotta make back up what we lost.”

Tornadoes were also confirmed in Pennsylvania just outside Pittsburgh, in central Arkansas and in northern West Virginia. The West Virginia twister was at least the 11th tornado this year in the state, which sees two tornadoes in an average year.

Both the Plains and Midwest have been hammered by tornadoes this spring.

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Cappelletti and White reported from Detroit. Associated Press journalists around the country contributed to this report, including Rio Yamat, Heather Hollingsworth, Colleen Slevin, Jim Salter, Kathy McCormack, Sarah Brumfield, Beatrice Dupuy, Alexa St. John, Adrian Sainz, John Raby and Lisa Baumann.

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The Associated Press’ climate and environmental coverage receives financial support from multiple private foundations. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP’s standards for working with philanthropies, a list of supporters and funded coverage areas at AP.org.



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