At least 3 dead as severe storms rip through central, southeast U.S.

Severe storms were tearing through the central and southeast U.S. late Tuesday and Wednesday, spawning damaging tornadoes, producing massive hail and killing two people in Tennessee and another in North Carolina.

A storm that rumbled across northeastern Tennessee brought high winds that knocked down power lines and trees. Claiborne County Sheriff Bob Brooks said a 22-year-old man was in a car struck by one of the trees.

Wednesday afternoon, a tornado emergency — the weather service’s highest alert level — was issued for an area south of Nashville including the towns of Spring Hill, Chapel Hill and Eagleville.

The U.S. National Weather Service had previously reported a likely tornado on the ground in nearby Columbia, Tenn., about 72 kilometres south of Nashville. People in Columbia were injured and homes were damaged, 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.”

Charles Hodge works to clear debris resulting from storm damage at a home in Columbia, Tenn.
Charles Hodge works to clear debris resulting from storm damage at a home in Columbia, Tenn., on Wednesday. (George Walker IV/The Associated Press)

Rita Thompson, marketing and communications director with Maury Regional Health, said the hospital had received five patients. One died, another was in serious condition and three had injuries that were not life-threatening.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued a temporary ground stop at Nashville International Airport because of the weather, media outlets reported. Northeast of Nashville, a flash flood emergency was issued for Sumner and Robertson counties, including the cities of Hendersonville and Gallatin.

The National Weather Service said water rescues were ongoing in those areas and described the flooding from heavy thunderstorms as life-threatening.

“Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order,” the weather alert agency said.

The National Weather Service in Nashville on Wednesday evening issued a tornado watch for parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee until 3 a.m. CT. The weather service continued issuing tornado warnings into the night, mostly in Tennessee, but also in Missouri, Alabama, Georgia and Texas.

In North Carolina, a state of emergency was declared for Gaston County Wednesday evening following a large storm. First responders were working to clear roads of downed power lines and broken trees and were helping residents, officials said. The New Hope Fire Department responded to a tree down on a car. One person in the car was killed and another was taken to a hospital, officials said.

More than 135,000 customers had lost power in the state as of Wednesday evening, according to

Tommy Lang works to recover items from his father's home after it was struck by a tornado on May 07, 2024 in Barnsdall, Okla.
Tommy Lang works to recover items from his father’s home after it was struck by a tornado on Tuesday in Barnsdall, Okla. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Western Ohio sees at least 8 tornadoes

The National Weather Service confirmed tornadoes touched down Tuesday in western Ohio: five in Warren County and one each in Darke, Mercer and Auglaize counties. The weather service said crews are still surveying areas in other counties to determine if tornadoes struck there, as well. The strong storms also brought hail and heavy rains to the state and knocked out power to thousands of utility customers.

Brenda Pollitt of Greenville, Ohio, is seen removing important papers from her bedroom, after her home was hit by a storm the previous evening.
Greenville, Ohio, resident Brenda Pollitt wipes the tears from her eyes as she removes important papers from her bedroom, on Wednesday. Pollitt and her children were home when a strong storm that hit Tuesday evening. (Marshall Gorby/Dayton Daily News/The Associated Press)

In Michigan, weather service meteorologist Nathan Jeruzal said the tornadoes there touched down one each in Kalamazoo, Cass and Branch counties — all in the southwestern part of the state. Michigan 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 and more than a dozen mobile homes were destroyed. About 50 people temporarily were trapped inside the damaged facility because of downed power lines.

Dwellings destroyed in mobile home park

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

A mobile home is seen after it toppled onto cars at a mobile home park near Kalamazoo, Mich.
A mobile home is seen Wednesday after a tornado force it to topple onto cars at a mobile home park near Kalamazoo, Mich. (Joey Cappelletti/The Associated Press)

Samantha Smith clutched a box Wednesday afternoon as she stepped from her mother’s partially wrecked home in Pavilion Township, about 220 kilometres west of Detroit. 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.

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.”

In southern Indiana, the National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down early Wednesday, damaging homes in a subdivision north of the city of Sellersburg, located about 19 kilometres north of Louisville, Ky.

The Clark County Emergency Management Agency said the storm damaged 24 structures.

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

Baseball-sized hail was reported Wednesday in areas just southwest of St. Louis, Missouri. Heavy downpours caused flash flooding and at least one water rescue near Sullivan, a town that was struck by a small tornado just two days earlier. Damaging hail also was reported in the Kansas City area.

On Monday, parts of the central United States were battered by heavy rain, strong winds, hail and twisters. Both the Plains and Midwest have been hammered by tornadoes this spring.

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