Storms and tornadoes leave behind battered homes and at least 32 victims in the South before lashing East Coast

Deadly tornadoes have hit Mississippi and Louisiana on Easter Sunday, causing catastrophic damage and several deaths.

Posted: Apr 14, 2020 10:10 AM
Updated: Apr 14, 2020 10:10 AM

A storm system that caused the deaths of at least 32 people and ripped apart homes in the South, and downed trees and power lines along much of the East Coast was largely a fresh and scary memory Monday night.

From Texas to South Carolina, reports of at least 40 tornadoes spanned more than 1,200 miles, the National Weather Service said Monday.

Radar data from the weather service suggests some tornadoes in Mississippi were on the ground for more than an hour and might have tracked at least 100 miles.

The system tore the roofs off many houses and killed people in six states before lashing other homes as it moved up the East Coast knocking trees onto roads and knocking out power to many.

In the South there was extensive damage in some areas.

In Mississippi, at least 11 people were killed, the state's Department of Emergency Management said.

At least nine people were killed in storm-related incidents in South Carolina, the state's governor Henry McMaster announced Monday. One of those killed was a security guard at a BorgWarner plant in Seneca.

Five people in South Carolina's Hampton County were killed in the early morning hours Monday, according to a Susanne Peeples, director of the county's emergency management department.

In Georgia, eight people were killed -- including five people in Murray County and one man in Cartersville, local officials said.

At least one house in Upson County, Georgia, was picked up and moved by the storm, CNN affiliate WSB reported Monday.

And in Arkansas, one person was killed after a tree fell on a home in Jefferson County, county emergency management director Karen Blevins said.

North Carolina also reported one death. Gov. Roy Cooper said a Davidson County woman died when a tree fell on her home. There were two deaths in Tennessee, according to officials.

Now states already grappling with the coronavirus pandemic are trying to recover from this outbreak of storms.

Emergency officials told residents that sheltering from the storms takes priority over the social distancing guidelines in place to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency emphasized that people should have a safe place to go -- and if that's a public shelter, to continue practicing social distancing.

"If you go to a public shelter please wear a mask, bandana, or scarf around your nose and mouth," MEMA tweeted.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards went to see tornado damage in Ouachita Parish. He wore a mask and kept his distance from the people who were dealing with damaged or destroyed homes.

"And it's always a delicate balance because I saw people who were out working hard already to get past the tornado damage and I saw some people in some homes that were obviously not going to be habitable tonight, or anytime soon," but he couldn't talk to them, the governor said.

Track the storms here

Trees down throughout New York metro

In New York, the state hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, some areas saw more than 2 inches of rain and some had wind gusts of up to 68 mph.

The New Jersey city of Ridgewood had 3.06 inches of rain in 24 hours.

There were dozens of reports of trees or wires blocking streets in the New York metropolitan area, according to the local office of the National Weather Service.

There were also many trees and wires down in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Eversource, New England's largest energy delivery company, has hundreds of crews working in the two states to restore power, officials said.

At one point at least 70,000 homes and businesses were without power.

According to the company, crews will continue working until power is restored to all customers affected by the storm.

The company also noted that their crews are working "while complying with the energy company's stringent Covid-19 pandemic protocols to safeguard the health and well-being of employees and customers."

How the storms unfolded

The storm system first pummeled Texas with severe weather Saturday and headed east to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

In Louisiana, the governor issued a state of emergency due to "devastating damage."

At least 200 to 300 structures were damaged in just the city of Monroe alone, Mayor Jamie Mayo said. No deaths were reported from the city, but some residents were injured.

Monroe is still recovering from flooding a few years ago, resident Jared Moore told CNN affiliate KNOE. He said neighbors worked together to rescue two women and four infants in the area.

"We actually band together and kind of canvassed the neighborhood to see who needed help. And thank God nobody was injured," Charlie Collins told KNOE.

"All of this stuff can be replaced, but life can't."

Aerial video from CNN affiliate WYFF showed one home in Seneca, South Carolina, with no roof. Inside one end of the house, there were two trucks in the pile. Outside the home, a line of debris covered the front yard, apparently indicating the direction of the storm.

A tree fell on a home in Sanford, North Carolina, sending a family of 10 scrambling to find each other, CNN affiliate WRAL reported. One child, a 12-year-old boy, was trapped in his bed by a fallen tree.

"When I heard a crackle and I heard the thunder, the boom, I just ran through the house, just thinking the thunder scared the kids. But then, when I got upstairs, you could see the dust and hear my baby hollering," Tammy Marsh said.

"When I opened the door, you could see his neck sticking out up under the debris," she said. "There was a beam over his head that I had to lift up and pull him away from under."

Brandon Ocotree said he was dreaming when the roof came down on him.

"At first, I was just trying to pull everything off me, and I couldn't, so I called for help," he said. The boy was taken to the hospital and treated for some scrapes and scratches, WRAL reported.

Newly homeless storm victims look for shelter

In the South, displaced residents are looking for shelter as coronavirus concerns loom.

In Louisiana, Mayo has asked hotels in Monroe to provide rooms for the newly homeless because the coronavirus outbreak has made opening an emergency shelter potentially dangerous.

Hotlines have been established to find housing for those who don't have a safe place to stay.

In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency and suspended coronavirus orders where life could be endangered.

"Shelters and community safe rooms should remain open and accessible to all individuals seeking refuge from this severe weather, while implementing reasonable practices and procedures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among those seeking shelter," Ivey said.

And in Mississippi, officials said most county safe rooms were equipped with hand sanitizer. Residents were advised to wear masks in the rooms.

Correction: This story has been updated with the correct death toll for Hampton County, South Carolina.

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