The storm-battered South is once again under threat. A boy dragged down a drain fights for his life

By KRISTIN M. HALL and GEORGE WALKER IV – Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (AP) — Dangerous storms hit parts of the South Thursday, even as the region recovered from earlier severe weather that spawned tornadoes, killed at least three people and seriously injured a child who was swept away. to a storm drain. while playing in a flooded street.

A strong line of storms hit Atlanta near the end of the morning rush hour. Busy hub airports in Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina, reported delays. The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center cited an “increased risk” of severe weather from Texas to South Carolina. An emergency manager reported “significant wind damage” from a possible tornado Thursday afternoon in the Vidalia, Georgia, area, a region known for producing onions.

The storms continue a streak of torrential rain and tornadoes this week from the Plains to the Midwest and, now, the Southeast. Since Monday, 39 states have been under threat of severe weather and at least four people have died. On Wednesday and Thursday, about 220 million people were under some type of severe weather risk, and some were in danger for several days, said Matthew Elliott, a forecaster with the Storm Prediction Center.

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The weather comes on the heels of a stormy April in which the United States had 300 confirmed tornadoes, the second highest record during the month and the largest amount since 2011.

More than 100,000 homes and businesses were still without power Thursday afternoon in several southern states after the previous night’s storms, according to

One in Tennessee damaged homes, injured people, downed power lines and trees and killed a 22-year-old man in a car in Claiborne County, north of Knoxville, authorities said. A second person died south of Nashville in Columbia, the county seat of Maury County, where authorities said a tornado with 140 mph (225 kph) winds damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said the woman who died in Maury County was in a mobile home that was thrown several feet into a wooded area. Lee visited emergency managers and Tennessee Department of Transportation officials in the area affected by the storm on Thursday. He thanked the workers who spent the night clearing trees and debris from the roads.

Lee later told reporters that it is “heartbreaking” to see families whose lives have been affected by the tornado.

“It’s hard to watch another family in a time of crisis, but it’s encouraging to be able to walk up and see their interaction with their neighbors and say they’re going to make it,” Lee said.

Bob Booth had just arrived home in Columbia from Georgia and was sitting watching television when he heard a “crazy bang.”

“I got up and looked outside, and all hell broke loose outside,” Booth said. “Then the top half of one of my trees falls across the road.”

Retired pastor Walter Shell said he and his wife grabbed their two dogs and headed to the basement when his phone alerted him of a tornado.

“It missed where my wife and I were by about 4 inches. She turned around,” she said. “It is worth praying for, I assure you.”

Torrential rains prompted a flash flood and water rescue emergency northeast of Nashville, and the weather service issued a tornado emergency, its highest warning level, for nearby areas.

A 10-year-old boy was seriously injured in Christiana, southeast of Nashville, when he became trapped in a storm drain and swept under the streets while playing with other children while adults cleaned up debris, his father, the county schools superintendent, posted. by Rutherford, Jimmy Sullivan. on social networks.

The boy, Asher, emerged in a drainage ditch and survived after receiving CPR, “but the damage is substantial,” Sullivan posted on Facebook, asking for prayers.

“Asher needs a miracle,” Sullivan wrote.

Dozens of people gathered at the school district offices for a prayer vigil Thursday. They bowed their heads and closed their eyes in prayer, and sang “Amazing Grace” together.

Schools were closed Thursday and Friday in Rutherford and Maury. In Georgia, some districts north of Atlanta canceled in-person classes or delayed start times because of overnight storm damage that included fallen trees on homes and vehicles around Clarkesville. No injuries were reported there.

“We’re trying to clean up right now and wait for the next round,” said Lynn Smith, director of the Habersham County Emergency Management Agency.

A strong tornado damaged at least 20 homes in DeKalb County in northern Alabama, causing injuries but no deaths, authorities said.

In North Carolina, a state of emergency was declared Wednesday night for Gaston County, west of Charlotte, after a storm that downed power lines and trees, including one that landed on a car. One person in the vehicle died and another was taken to a hospital, authorities said.

The storms followed heavy rain, high winds, hail and tornadoes in parts of the central United States on Monday, including a tornado that ripped through an Oklahoma city and killed one person. On Tuesday, the Midwest took the brunt of the severe weather. According to the weather service, tornadoes touched down in parts of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

The Kalamazoo area of ​​Michigan was hit hard when a FedEx facility was vandalized and downed power lines trapped about 50 people.

Tornadoes were also confirmed near Pittsburgh, central Arkansas and northern West Virginia. The West Virginia tornado was at least the 11th tornado this year in the state, which sees two tornadoes occur in an average year.

Both the Plains and the Midwest have been hit by tornadoes this spring.

Associated Press journalists across the country contributed to this report, including Kimberlee Kruesi, Travis Loller, Jeff Amy, Joey Cappelletti, Ed White, Sarah Brumfield, Adrian Sainz and John Raby.

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