Storms leave trail of damage across South and East Coast

Storms that produced tornadoes and destroyed and damaged homes in Mississippi and Alabama swept over the Southeast and Atlantic coast Thursday, with heavy rains and winds that tore off roofs.

In North Carolina, a rotating storm prompted newscasters to seek shelter and move from a studio to a makeup room during a live broadcast.

“It’s over us. This is not the room we need to be in,” WGHP chief meteorologist Van Denton said on air. There were no injuries, but the roof audibly rattled.

Tornado watches stretched across a swath of North Carolina and into Southeastern Virginia Thursday evening.

The National Weather Service had issued high-risk severe weather outlooks, which are somewhat rare, for parts of the South.

No deaths have been reported from the tornados that began Wednesday, but homes and buildings have been destroyed or damaged. Two people in Alabama suffered minor injuries.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said that though tree and structure damage appeared fairly widespread, “overall, we have a lot to be grateful for, as it could have been much worse.”

On Thursday the metro Atlanta area was pelted by heavy rain with intense lightning, and wind gusts of up to 50 mph.

In South Carolina, the severe weather threat led the state Senate president to caution senators to stay home Thursday while urging staff to work remotely for their safety. House Speaker Jay Lucas said that chamber would meet for less than an hour Thursday.

“If you are in a situation where it is perilous that you come, I’m asking you not to come,” Lucas said. “If you can come, give us a quorum and do these few things we need to do, we will be out of here in a hurry.”

The forecast led a number of the state’s school systems to call off in-person classes Thursday and have students and teachers meet online.

There were more than two dozen reported tornadoes across the South on Wednesday. In Alabama, survey crews confirmed two tornadoes and said it had many other reports that would take time to investigate.

An EF-1 tornado with estimated peak winds of 110 mph hit the Moundville area, and an EF-2 tornado with estimated peak winds of 130 mph touched down in Chilton County, the weather service said.

About 30 homes in Moundville were damaged, Hale County Emergency Management Agency Director Russell Weeden told NBC affiliate WVTM of Birmingham. Seven others were damages in nearby Akron.

In Chilton County, several homes were destroyed. Jimmy Baker took cover in a hall closet after a tornado warning and was thankful to be alive.

“We heard it. You know, the sound from the house coming down. We were saved. We thank the Lord for that,” Baker told NBC affiliate WSFA of Montgomery. “And we had one walk-in closet that a lot of clothes was in, and nothing was bothered in it but the rest of the house was gone.”

A mother and child suffered minor injuries in Clarke County, Alabama, Emergency Management Agency director Roy Waite said. Their home was completely destroyed and three others were damaged.

And in Lacon, Alabama, a woman whose vehicle was submerged in floodwaters was found clinging to a tree Wednesday night as responders worked to rescue her, according to officials there.

In Mississippi, the weather service said preliminary reports show an EF-1 tornado occurred in Lincoln County, and an EF-0 occurred in Lamar County.

On Thursday there was a report of a tornado that touched down in Pierce County, Georgia, according to the National Weather Service.

Winds that damaged or tore roofs off homes, and which knocked down power lines and damaged cars, were reported in Georgia, Florida,and North Carolina, were also reported to the weather service. Some of that damage was called possibly from a tornado, but the reports are preliminary.