- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Violent weather ripped through the South for a second straight day, killing at least eight people from Arkansas to Alabama, damaging homes in a rural Texas community, and spreading destruction into Georgia and Tennessee.

The latest round of severe weather Tuesday night and early Wednesday came after a series of powerful storms that already had killed 10 people in Arkansas and one in Mississippi.

In the latest storms, a Louisiana police officer on a camping trip was killed by a tree limb while shielding his daughter from the high winds at a state park in northern Mississippi, Choctaw County, Miss., Coroner Keith Coleman said. The daughter was not hurt.

Also in Mississippi, a man was crushed in his mobile home when a tree fell during the storm, and a truck driver died after hitting a downed tree on a state highway.

In Alabama, where the governor declared a state of emergency, one person was killed in the northern part of the state when a tree fell on a car. Two people died in St. Clair County in central Alabama and another in Jackson County in the northeast, though emergency officials did not say how.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management confirmed early Wednesday that another person had died in a storm in Sharp County. Officials said the person was in a home near Arkansas Highway 230 but didn’t know exactly how the person died or whether a tornado had touched down in the area.

In Louisiana, police were investigating whether two deaths in Monroe were storm-related. A woman’s body was found early Wednesday in a vehicle that became trapped in a flooded underpass, and a man’s body was found later on a flooded street.

The latest round of storms moved through as communities in much of the region struggled with flooding and damage from earlier twisters. In Arkansas, a tornado smashed Vilonia, just north of Little Rock, on Monday night, ripping the roof off the grocery store, flattening homes and tossing vehicles into the air. Four people were killed there, and six died in flooding elsewhere in the state. In Mississippi, a 3-year-old girl was killed when a storm toppled a tree onto her home.

The destruction continued Wednesday as severe storms in northwest Georgia downed trees, blew out windows in a hospital and tore off part of a school roof. Much of north and central Georgia was bracing for another round of thunderstorms later Wednesday, and a tornado watch was issued.

In eastern Tennessee, what appeared to be a tornado struck just outside Chattanooga in Tiftonia, at the base of the tourist peak Lookout Mountain.

Angela Milchack, 29, just had dropped off her son at Lookout Valley Elementary School. Students took cover and none were hurt.

“It just sounded like the wind was blowing really, really hard,” she said.

Tops were snapped off trees, and insulation and metal roof panels littered the ground. Police officers walked down the street, spray-painting symbols at houses they had checked for people who might be inside.

The National Weather Service issued a high-risk warning for severe weather from northeast of Memphis, Tenn., to just northeast of Dallas and covering a large swath of Arkansas. It last issued such a warning on April 16, when dozens of tornadoes hit North Carolina and killed 21 people.

Emergency management officials in Alabama said two suspected tornadoes touched down in Marshall County, about 70 miles northeast of Birmingham, causing widespread injuries and damage.

“There are people trapped in mobile homes, in vehicles. We’ve got trees down all over, power lines down all over. It’s all over the county,” said Phil Mayer, working in the county emergency management office.

The weather service didn’t immediately confirm twister damage, but forecasters had issued several tornado warnings and said winds blew as hard as 70 mph, just short of hurricane force.

High winds also damaged a hangar at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Alabama.

Dozens of tornado warnings were issued in Arkansas throughout the night. Strong winds peeled part of the roof off of a medical building next to a hospital in West Memphis, near the Tennessee border, but no one was inside.

At least one person was injured when a storm slammed through the tiny town of Edom some 75 miles east of Dallas late Tuesday, said Fire Chief Eddie Wood. Witnesses described seeing what they thought was a tornado rolling the woman’s mobile home with her inside.

A video shot by the Tyler Morning Telegraph showed emergency responders covering the injured woman to shield her from rain and hail. Her mobile home was reduced to a pile of debris in the road.

“We have multiple houses damaged or destroyed,” said Chuck Allen, Van Zandt County emergency management spokesman. He said he would survey the area by helicopter Wednesday to get an accurate count.

Ted Ryan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, Texas, said at least one tornado almost certainly hit between Edom and the town of Van to the north. He said the weather service would send a team to the area Wednesday to assess the damage and determine the strength of the storm.

At daybreak Wednesday, residents on the outskirts of the small, rural community started to clear up the damage from the storm. The area was littered with uprooted trees; some had split in half, and others landed on homes.

Rhonda Modesitt, 45, said she and her 15-year-old son watched the tornado approach their duplex.

“You could see lumber and stuff swirling in it,” Ms. Modesitt said as she swept up broken glass from patio furniture that was smashed in the storm. “You could hear it coming through, and then it got real still.”

Associated Press writers Jamie Stengle in Edom, Texas; Andrew DeMillo and Nomaan Merchant in Vilonia, Ark.; Jack Elliott Jr. in Jackson, Miss.; Bill Fuller in New Orleans; Bill Poovey in Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Terry Wallace in Dallas contributed to this report.

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