Weekend storms raked parts of the Southeast, leaving deaths and injuries in their wake as a tornado smashed into a commercial district in a small Mississippi city and drenching rains fed a rising flood threat.
A woman was killed when a tornado hit Columbus, Mississippi, and a man died when he drove into floodwaters in Tennessee, officials said.
The tornado Saturday afternoon in Columbus was confirmed on radar, said meteorologist Anna Wolverton with the National Weather Service in Jackson. She told The Associated Press that experts would be headed Sunday to the east Mississippi city of about 23,000 people to gauge the tornado’s intensity.
A woman died after a building collapsed on her and three other people, the Columbus mayor’s office said Sunday in a statement on Facebook, citing information from Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant. The statement said 41-year-old Ashley Glynell Pounds of Tupelo was with three other people when the building collapsed Saturday evening. The statement gave no information on the condition of the other three people.
In Knox County, Tennessee, officials said a man has died after his vehicle became submerged in high water. The Sheriff’s office says emergency crews got the man out of his vehicle and took him to a hospital, but he was later pronounced dead.
At First Pentecostal Church in Columbus, the Rev. Steve Blaylock said the building was “a total loss,” with a wall pushed in, holes in the roof and substantial water damage. He and his congregants were trying to salvage what they could on the morning after the storm. But he said they still would hold a Sunday prayer service and even planned to go ahead with a scheduled baptism, using a borrowed portable baptismal pool.
“We will rebuild. We’ve got a good church here,” Blaylock said. “It’ll be a testimony of God.”
Columbus Mayor Robert Smith Sr. said 12 peopl ewere injured, but the injuries did not appear to be major. City spokesman Joe Dillon said the tornado also seriously damaged a school and two community center buildings.
Residents of one street on the east side of Columbus were out early Sunday morning with chain saws, clearing away branches of the many trees that had snapped or were uprooted in the storm. Metal siding and roofing material was scattered throughout the neighborhood of older homes. While the houses generally remained standing, sheds and outbuildings were mostly demolished.
Lee Lawrence, who said he has been selling used cars for decades in Columbus, told The AP that four buildings on his car lot were destroyed. He said trees toppled across vehicles and car windows were blown out.
Lawrence said he was at home getting ready to take a bath when the storm struck.
“The wind all of a sudden just got so strong and it was raining so much you could hardly see out the door, and I could hear a roaring. Evidently it came close,” he said, speaking with AP in a phone interview.
“It will be a start-over deal,” Lawrence said. “I can’t say it will come back better or stronger, but we’ll come back.”
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