Punishing winds, possible tornadoes inflict damage as storms cross US South
ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — Damaging winds and possible tornadoes toppled trees, damaged buildings and blew cars off a highway Wednesday as powerful storms crossed the South from Texas to Georgia.
The National Weather Service issued numerous tornado warnings, mainly in southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia, and cautioned that gusts of hurricane-force winds exceeding 90 mph (145 kph) were possible in parts of northeast Louisiana and central Mississippi. Some areas also were pelted with large hail.
Witnesses posted video of tornadoes hitting Abbeville and Eufala in Alabama.
In Georgia, authorities in Troup County told WSB-TV that a person was struck by lightning Wednesday afternoon. There was no immediate word on that person’s condition.
Tens of thousands of people across both Alabama and Georgia were without power Wednesday night amid the storms, according to each of the state’s power providers. At one point, the outages were affecting close to 50,000 people in Alabama alone.
Forecasters said severe storm threats could persist into Thursday, with the greatest risk across southern Alabama and Georgia into the Florida Panhandle as well as Oklahoma and parts of northern Texas and southern Kansas.
Felecia Bowser, meteorologist in charge for the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, Florida, called the far-reaching inland storm system unprecedented for this time of year.
“In June, we’re usually gearing up more for tropical weather,” Bowser said. “This type of widespread, aggressive precipitation that we’re seeing today usually occurs more so in the spring.”
Two people escaped unharmed from a home that was destroyed Wednesday as storms raked rural southwest Georgia, Calhoun County Sheriff Josh Hilton said. He told WALB-TV the home in Quail County Plantation, near the county line with neighboring Early County, was demolished.
Video posted on social media showed a large funnel cloud churning on the horizon near the rural city of Blakely, and officials in nearby communities reported downed trees and snapped power lines. Connie Hobbs, the elected commission chairman for neighboring Baker County, said hail stones up to golf-ball size rained down in her yard.
Tornado warnings were issued for southwest Georgia’s largest city, Albany, and surrounding Dougherty County on Wednesday afternoon. County government spokeswoman Wendy Howell said there had been no reports of significant damage or injuries.
“The big concern is flooding,” Howell said as rain hammered at windows Wednesday evening. “We’re such a flat area, and there’s already water standing” on and alongside the roads.
In Alabama, the Eufaula Police Department said confirmed tornado damage was reported in the city near the Georgia state line. Eufaula Mayor Jack Tibbs told WSFA-TV that no injuries were immediately reported, but the storm collapsed a wall of a building and downed 30 or 40 trees.
Local news outlets showed viewer-submitted video of a tornado rumbling through nearby Henry County, Alabama, and of roof damage in the area.
Sheriff Larry Rowe of Cass County in eastern Texas told KYTX-TV that some vehicles were blown off a highway Wednesday afternoon as the county was under a tornado warning. There were no immediate reports of injuries.