Killer storms and tornadoes strike South

Sunday, November 25, 2001

Deadly thunderstorms swept across the lower Mississippi Valley, flattening homes and poultry farms and ripping down power lines. At least twelve deaths were blamed on the storms and dozens of people were injured.

The scream of warning sirens woke Roosevelt Greenwood before dawn Saturday in Madison, Miss., and he crowded with his wife and four children into a tiny hall closet.

"As soon as I closed the door to the closet, the tornado hit. It took the roof off," said Greenwood, 33. "Where my 2-year-old son had been lying, the wall caved in on the crib."

No one in his family was hurt, but the tornado that ripped through the town killed one person and injured at least 21 people, including a 32-year-old pregnant woman who remained in critical condition Saturday night.

In addition to the 12 storm-related deaths, University of Mississippi Medical Center spokeswoman Barbara Austin said the woman gave birth to a baby that died Saturday.

The house next to the Greenwoods was blown away, leaving only a car where the garage had stood. "It's definitely by the grace of God that we're here," Greenwood said.

Three other people were killed early Saturday in northwestern Mississippi's Delta region, including Hattie Robinson in the tiny town of Sledge. Mayor Lorenzo Windless said Robinson's house was torn from its foundation and pushed across the road by the storm.

At least a half-dozen tornadoes ripped through Alabama on Saturday, killing four people and injuring about 11 others, one critically.

Two women were killed when a twister moved through the northwest Alabama town of Kennedy, lifting their home off its foundation, said Lamar County emergency management chief Ralph Harrison. Their names were not known.

A mother and her adult son were also reportedly killed when a tornado threw their mobile home into a nearby pond in northeast Alabama.

Thunderstorm line

The severe weather was part of a line of thunderstorms that spanned the Ohio and Mississippi valleys from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico as a cold front swept through the region. The National Weather Service posted tornado warnings Saturday in Mississippi, western Kentucky and Alabama, and severe storm warnings were issued for parts of those states and Tennessee.

Storms earlier passed through parts of Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas.

Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove toured damaged areas of Madison, where dozens of homes were ripped from their foundations.

Resident Winston Thompson said sirens awoke him and his mother. He said eight or 10 homes on his street were blown away or extensively damaged.

About 22,000 customers were without power in central and eastern Mississippi.

The storms in the Delta also ripped the roof off the Bolivar County Correctional Facility. Authorities moved 207 inmates to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. There were no serious injuries.

Downed trees and power lines were spread across much of Arkansas but authorities had not officially determined if the storms that struck late Friday included tornadoes. Homes and poultry houses were damaged or destroyed.

In southeast Arkansas, two deaths and heavy damage were reported in Wilmot, a town of about 1,500, and many people were without electricity, said Jennifer Gordon, spokeswoman for the state Emergency Management Department.

In northwestern Arkansas, one death was reported late Friday at Hunt, in Johnson County, which may have been struck by a tornado, said weather service meteorologist John Lewis. Arkansas' fourth weather-related death was a traffic fatality on a rain-slippery highway, the State Police reported.

Elsewhere, high wind late Friday destroyed a house in Mount Vernon, Mo., and three people suffered minor injuries when their vehicle overturned, authorities said. Wind and hail nearly an inch in diameter also damaged buildings elsewhere in Missouri.

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