High winds, rain hit South; at least 7 killed

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JACKSON, Ga. (AP) — Fast-moving spring storms packing high winds, hail and lightning blew through the South on Monday and early Tuesday, uprooting trees, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands and killing at least seven people.

The storms were part of a system that cut a wide swath from the Mississippi River across the Southeast to Georgia and the Carolinas. Skies were clearing in many areas that were hit, but tornado watches remained in effect in eastern North and South Carolina as the storms appeared to head out to sea.

A father and his young son were killed when a tree fell onto a home in Butts County in central Georgia, Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Lisa Janak said. The sheriff’s office there said the 28-year-old man, Alix Bonhomme Jr., and the 4-year-old boy, Alix III, were killed early Tuesday when a tree limb crashed onto a bed where they were sleeping.

The child’s mother, Marcie Moorer, and the couple’s younger son, Isaac, 3, were able to escape.

Ms. Moorer’s stepfather, Bennie Battle, said he was down the street from the couple’s home as the storm tore through.

“It was just a lot of wind and lightning,” he said. “It was like being in the middle of a laser show.”

He heard a knock on the door at the height of the storm. It was a neighbor coming to tell him that a tree had crashed onto his stepdaughter’s home.

Mr. Bonhomme “was holding his son in his arms when it happened,” Battle said. “He was trying to protect his son.”

Bonhomme worked two jobs to support the family, Mr. Battle said. The son “was as sweet as he could be. He was just so lovable,” Mr. Battle said.

Jackson Mayor Charlie Brown said the storm’s devastation was the worst the community had seen in 30 or 40 years.

“I would say weeks, a minimum of weeks for us to be able to clean up our community,” Mr. Brown said.

Farther south, a 45-year-old man was found dead under debris after a mobile home in Dodge County was ripped from its foundation, according to a news release from the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office. Ms. Janak said there had been a possible tornado in that county.

In northwest Atlanta, police said a man was killed when a tree fell on his car. In south Georgia’s Colquitt County, officials said a county worker was driving his pickup truck to work early Tuesday when he struck a tree that had fallen on the road, killing him.

About 20 possible tornadoes were reported around the region, according to the National Weather Service.

In Memphis, Tenn., fire officials said an 87-year-old man found dead in his home Monday was electrocuted by a downed power line.

In southern Mississippi, a 21-year-old man was killed when his car struck a tree that had fallen across a road, Copiah County Coroner Ellis Stuart said.

The storms moved across the Carolinas early Tuesday, knocking down trees and causing power outages.

Power outages were reported in several other states, including Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia. In Georgia alone, more than 200,000 customers still without power by midday Tuesday.

More than 13,000 customers were without electricity in Virginia on Tuesday morning. The total includes more than 8,200 Appalachian Power customers and 5,200 Dominion Virginia Power customers.

According to Dominion’s website, more than 1,700 of Tuesday’s outages are in Southside Virginia. About 1,000 outages are in the Richmond area, and 900 are in Southeastern Virginia.

There also are outages in Northern Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, the Western Piedmont, and the Gloucester and Northern Neck areas.

Appalachian Power’s outages include more than 2,700 in Wise County. The utility also reports outages in Henry, Patrick and Tazewell counties, and in Lynchburg.

Delmarva Power reported more than 1,000 outages in Maryland and Delaware following storms

As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, about 565 outages were being reported in Sussex County, Del. About 365 outages were reported in Somerset County, Md.

Delmarva spokeswoman Sandra May said crews are working to restore the outages.

In western Kentucky, seven people working at a plant suffered minor injuries Monday when a possible tornado hit.

Christian County Emergency Management Director Randy Graham said about three dozen people who usually work in the area of the Toyoda Gosei Automotive Sealing Kentucky that was struck by the storm were at the other end of the building for their lunch break when it hit.

“We’re fortunate not to have any serious injuries or death,” he said. The county is seeking a disaster declaration based on the damage at the plant. He said about 120 to 130 people were there when a front wall partially collapsed and a side wall and roof torn out.

Strong winds ripped away part of the roof of an elementary school gymnasium in Ashland City, Tenn., but officials said no children were injured.

Most of the storm damage in eastern Tennessee was caused by high winds, according to the National Weather Service.

Winds gusting to about 50 mph blew down trees and power lines across north Alabama before heading to Georgia on Monday. The National Weather Service recorded wind gusts up to 49 mph at the Huntsville, Ala., airport.

In DeKalb County, Ga., east of Atlanta, meteorologists reported 1-inch hail and storms packing high winds of 30 to 50 mph in some places Monday. Hundreds of lightning strikes were reported.

The storms came on the heels of the 37th anniversary of the worst recorded outbreak of tornadoes in U.S. history, in which 148 twisters hit 13 states across the South and Midwest on April 3-4, 1974.

Associated Press writer Lenny Pallats in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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