- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

JEFF BUSBY PARK, Miss. (AP) | A wave of thunderstorms with winds blowing near hurricane force strafed the South on Wednesday, killing at least 11 people from Arkansas to Alabama, including a father struck by a tree while protecting his daughter at a Mississippi campsite.

The system laced with suspected tornadoes spread destruction Tuesday night and Wednesday from Texas to Georgia. An earlier flare-up of storms this week had already killed 10 people in Arkansas and one in Mississippi.

Forecasters warned that even worse weather could be on its way. The system was forecast to hit Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky on Wednesday night and then the Carolinas.

“Today is the day you want to be careful,” said Greg Carbin of the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma.

On Wednesday morning, a Louisiana police officer on a camping trip in Choctaw County, Miss., was killed when a towering sweetgum tree fell onto his tent as he shielded his young daughter with his body, said Kim Korthuis, a supervisor with the National Park Service. The girl wasn’t hurt.

Allen Hartfield walks past downed electric lines on County Road 101 in Oxford, Miss., on Wednesday. A spate of severe storms downed trees, as well as power lines, with deadly effect in Mississippi. AP Photo/Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman)
Allen Hartfield walks past downed electric lines on County Road 101 in ... more >

The 9-year-old girl was brought to a motorhome about 100 feet away where campsite volunteer Greg Maier was staying with his wife. Mr. Maier said he went back to check on the father and found him dead.

“She wasn’t hurt, just scared and soaking wet,” Mr. Maier said.

Her father, Lt. Wade Sharp, had been with the Covington Police Department for 19 years.

“He was a hell of an investigator,” said Capt. Jack West, his colleague in Louisiana.

Also in Mississippi, a man was crushed in his mobile home when a tree fell during the storm, a truck driver died after hitting a downed tree on a state highway and a member of a county road crew was killed when he was struck by a tree they were removing. The governor made an emergency declaration for much of the state.

Alabama, also in a state of emergency, was the scene of at least five storm-related deaths. One woman died when her mobile home was torn to shreds, and a second woman was trapped under a mobile home elsewhere. Falling trees or limbs also killed a woman in her house, a man standing outside and a motorist in separate locations.

In both Mississippi and Alabama numerous felled trees blocked roads, impeding emergency responders and those trying to leave hard-hit areas.

Austin Ransdell and a friend had to hike out of their neighborhood south of Birmingham after the house where he was living was crushed by four trees. No one was hurt.

As he walked away from the wreckage, trees and power lines crisscrossed residential streets, and police cars and utility trucks blocked a main highway.

“The house was destroyed. We couldn’t stay in it. Water pipes broke; it was flooding the basement,” he said. “We had people coming in telling us another storm was coming in about four or five hours, so we just packed up.”

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