In southern Tennessee, two people were killed in a home when a suspected tornado hit Monday night, Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Mike Hall said. The winds destroyed several other homes as well as a middle school in the county that borders Alabama, Hall said.
Along Mississippi Highway 397 on the eastern edge of Louisville early Tuesday, firefighters could be seen picking through the remains of an unidentified number of pulverized mobile homes. Lt. Brian Arnett of the Starkville Fire Department said they were searching for three people who were unaccounted for.
About 100 yards away, 20 firefighters linked hands and waded through an area where woodframe homes had been heavily damaged.
Trees in Louisville had been snapped in half and stripped of their branches, while sheet metal had twisted itself around road signs and tree trunks. Rescue workers stepped gingerly over downed power lines.
The tornado in Louisville also caused water damage and carved holes in the roof of the Winston Medical Center, according to an Associated Press reporter at the center. There were about 15 patients in hospital rooms and eight or nine in the emergency room, where evacuations were underway.
“We thought we were going to be OK then a guy came in and said, ‘It’s here right now,’” said Dr. Michael Henry, head of the emergency room. “Then boom … it blew through.”
One of the deaths in Mississippi involved a woman who was killed when her car either hydroplaned or was blown off a road during the storm in Verona, south of Tupelo, said Lee County Coroner Carolyn Gillentine Green.
In northern Alabama, the coroner’s office confirmed two deaths Monday in a twister that caused extensive damage west of the city of Athens, said Limestone County Emergency Director Rita White. White said more victims could be trapped in the wreckage of damaged buildings, but rescuers could not reach some areas because of downed power lines.
Separately, Limestone Commissioner Bill Latimer said he received reports of four deaths in the county from one of his workers. Neither the governor’s office nor state emergency officials could immediately confirm those deaths.
Numerous watches and warnings were still active in Alabama, with forecasters warning the severe weather could continue all night.
In Tupelo, Miss., a community of about 35,000 in northeastern Mississippi, every building in a two-block area south of U.S. Highway 78 suffered damage, officials told a reporter on the scene. Some buildings had their roofs sheared off, while power lines had been knocked down completely or bent at 45-degree angles. Road crews were using heavy machinery to clear off other streets.
The Northeast Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo had received 30 patients as of Monday night, four of whom were being admitted with non-life-threatening injuries, said center spokeswoman Deborah Pugh. Pugh said the other 26 patients were treated for minor injuries and released.
Bryant declared a state of emergency Monday in advance of the storms, which sent emergency officials rushing to put plans in place.
With the wind howling outside and rain blowing sideways, Monica Foster rode out a tornado warning with her two daughters, ages 10 and 12, inside a gas station near Fayette, Ala. One of the girls cried as the three huddled with a station employee in a storage area beside a walk-in cooler.
Foster, who was returning home to Lynn on rural roads after a funeral in Tuscaloosa, said she typically would have kept driving through the deluge.