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Deadly tornado outbreak: 2 dead, homes damaged as severe storms sweep across Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi and more southern states

A series of severe storms with scattered tornadoes and strong winds swept across the Deep South overnight, killing at least two in the Florida Panhandle, downing trees and power lines and leaving homes and businesses damaged as the massive weather front swept across several states.

In Florida, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday morning two were killed and two injured when a tornado struck in the western Florida Panhandle.

The sheriff’s office also said the tornado destroyed homes there. His Facebook page showed at least one home being obliterated, as well as trees on top of another home. Further details were not immediately available.

At least two confirmed tornadoes Wednesday injured several people, damaged homes and businesses, and knocked out power lines in Mississippi and Tennessee after previous storms caused damage in Arkansas, Missouri and Texas.

About 185,000 customers were without power along a number of states as of Thursday morning after the storm: Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utilities.

MORE: Difference between tornado watch, tornado warning

The worst weather on Thursday morning appeared to be at the southern end of the storm front, which was expected to bring heavy rain and high winds along the entire US east coast later in the day. According to the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, much of the Florida Panhandle was under tornado watch.

No deaths from the storms had been reported as of early Thursday, authorities said. However, widespread damage was reported in the Jackson, Tennessee area as a tornado warning was in effect. “Significant damage” occurred at a nursing home near Jackson-Madison County General Hospital and the Madison County Sheriff’s Office in Jackson, said Jason Moore, Madison County’s director of emergency management.

In Nashville, Tennessee, a panel fell five stories down the side of a downtown hotel onto the roof of a building below Wednesday night. Firefighters warned debris could be blown up if the strong winds persist, and some hotel guests have been moved to other parts of the building over concerns the roof could become unstable. No injuries were immediately linked to the collapse.

Daylight revealed widespread wind damage across Alabama.

One person was injured when a storm hit the University of Montevallo campus, south of Birmingham, damaging a dormitory, officials said, and one woman was injured when a prefab home toppled in rural Bibb County. A school bus was overturned at a high school in southern Alabama, and part of the roof was missing from a church in northwest Alabama.

Elsewhere, a warehouse roof collapsed as the storms swept through Southaven, Mississippi, near Memphis, police said. The building was evacuated and no injuries were reported.

The Mississippi Senate suspended work Wednesday as weather sirens wailed during a tornado watch in downtown Jackson. Some employees took shelter in the Capitol basement.

Rander P. Adams said he and his wife, Janice Delores Adams, were at their home near downtown Jackson when severe weather hit Wednesday afternoon during a tornado warning. He said their lights flashed and a large window blew up just feet from his wife when she tried to open her front door.

“The glass broke like someone threw a brick in it,” he said. “Then I advised her: ‘Let’s go behind the house.'”

Adams said the storm downed trees at a nearby park and split a large tree in half across the street from their home. “We were blessed,” he said. “Instead of falling toward the house, it fell the other way.”

Earlier Wednesday, a tornado that struck Springdale, Arkansas, and the adjacent town of Johnson, about 140 miles northwest of Little Rock, injured seven people, two seriously, just after 4 a.m., according to Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse.

Sprouse said in a statement that one of the seriously injured has improved and is in stable condition and the other five have been discharged from a hospital.

“Our first responders conducted house-to-house searches and we believe everyone has been held accountable,” Sprouse said.

The Tulsa National Weather Service said Thursday the tornado was classified as an EF-3 after an initial assessment of EF-2 with winds ranging from 135 to 165 mph. The tornado reached a top speed of about 140 mph and 5 miles (8 kilometers) while it was on the ground for about eight minutes, according to the weather service.

In northwest Missouri, an EF-1 tornado with winds of about 90 mph hit St. Joseph Tuesday night, damaging two homes.

A small tornado also made brief landfall on the east edge of Dallas, according to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. The tornado struck near McClendon-Chisolm just after 4:30 a.m. Wednesday with top winds of about 100 mph (161 km/h) and damaged homes, but no injuries were reported, according to the weather service.

The storms come a week after a tornado wreaked havoc in a New Orleans-area neighborhood during overnight hours, killing a man.

Strong winds in Louisiana toppled semi-trailers, peeled the roof off a mobile home, crashed a tree into a house and downed power lines, according to weather service forecasters, who didn’t immediately confirm tornadoes in the state.

Firefighters, meanwhile, have been trying to contain a wildfire that was spreading near Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park amid mandatory evacuations as winds picked up ahead of the approaching storm front.

The fire, which could not be contained, had spread to about 250 acres (more than 100 hectares) as of Wednesday afternoon. One person was injured and a plume of smoke billowed over a community not far from where the 2016 wildfires devastated the tourist city of Gatlinburg, killing 14 people and damaging or destroying about 2,500 buildings.

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Wagster Pettus reported from Jackson, Miss., and Mattise from Nashville, Tennessee; Many other Associated Press journalists contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://abc13.com/tornado-tornadoes-damage-arkansas/11696293/ Deadly tornado outbreak: 2 dead, homes damaged as severe storms sweep across Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi and more southern states

Dais Johnston

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