MONTGOMERY, Ala. – More than 20 possible tornadoes slashed through the Southeast, killing at least two people Wednesday and damaging homes as a line of intense weather rolled from Texas to Georgia and as far north as Indiana.
The National Weather Service issued more than 70 tornado warnings across a swath of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana on Tuesday and Wednesday as storms slammed the region with heavy rains, high winds and large hail.
In Alabama, a possible early-morning tornado just north of Montgomery killed a 39-year-old woman and her 8-year-old son when a tree fell on their mobile home, authorities said. The boy's father was hospitalized, and several homes and other buildings were damaged, officials said.
In the Flatwood community where the deaths occurred, Caroline Bankston said she and Tim Wiseman were watching the news when they realized a tornado was about to hit them, so they moved to a safer spot as part of the roof fell into their sofa.
“We were just sitting there on the couch,'' Bankston said. "Thank God we moved.”
The weather service office in Birmingham confirmed a tornado touched down about 3 a.m. Wednesday. The storm also caused widespread damage in neighboring Elmore County, said Keith Barnett, the county's emergency management director.
"We will be dispatching 2 teams of meteorologists to investigate possible tornado damage today in Montgomery/Elmore and Greene Counties," the office tweeted Wednesday.
In the Greene County town of Eutaw, the storm tore off sections of an apartment complex roof, forcing 15 families from their homes in the middle of the night. The weather service said preliminary storm survey findings indicate the culprit was an EF-1 tornado with winds of 110 mph.
In Hale County, a suspected tornado damaged numerous homes. County Emergency Management Director Russell Weeden said more than a third of residents live in highly vulnerable mobile homes.
“I have seen some really nice mobile homes tied down, but they just don’t stand a chance against a tornado,” Weeden told WBRC-TV.
At least 2 injured in Louisiana
In Louisiana's rural Caldwell Parish, 130 miles east of Shreveport, at least two people were injured when several homes were damaged by a tornado late Tuesday, Sheriff Clay Bennett said.
"Thank you to everyone that came and helped during the storm this evening!'' Bennett said in a Facebook post Tuesday, adding "no one was killed" in the storm.
Customers trapped in Mississippi grocery store
The National Weather Service also confirmed tornados hit the ground late Tuesday in Mississippi. In Caledonia, 40 miles northeast of Starkville, authorities freed several grocery store customers and employees trapped after an apparent tornado hit.
Hailstones the size of tennis balls hammered Tchula, Mississippi, on Tuesday. Mayor Ann Polk took cover in City Hall.
"It was hitting against the window, and you could tell that it was nice-sized balls of it," Polk said.
The weather service office in Jackson said north-central Mississippi was being "pummeled" by heavy rain and thunderstorms early Wednesday.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2 killed as tornadoes, dangerous storms sweep across southeast states