YAZOO CITY, Miss. — Severe storms spawning multiple tornadoes moved across the South on Monday, damaging homes and uprooting trees from Mississippi to Kentucky. A tornado spotted in Atlanta forced thousands to seek shelter, and one man was killed when a falling tree brought power lines onto his vehicle.
The motorist was pronounced dead after fire crews cut him from the vehicle in Douglasville, Georgia, west of Atlanta, Douglas County spokesman Rick Martin told reporters. No other details were immediately released.
The weather first turned rough in Mississippi on Sunday, where just south of Yazoo City, Vickie Savell was left with only scraps of the brand new mobile home where she and her husband had moved in just eight days ago. It had been lifted off its foundation and moved about 25 feet (7.6 meters). It was completely destroyed.
“Oh my God, my first new house in 40 years and it’s gone,” she said Monday, amid tree tops strewn about the neighborhood and the roar of chainsaws as people worked to clear roads.
Savell had been away from home, attending church, but her husband Nathan had been driving home and hunkered down in the front of his truck as the home nearby was destroyed. From there, he watched his new home blow past him, he said.
Nearby, Garry McGinty recalled being at home listening to birds chirping — then dead silence. He looked outside and saw a dark, ominous cloud and took shelter in a hallway, he said. He survived, but trees slammed into his carport, two vehicles and the side of his house.
A line of severe storms rolled through the state Sunday afternoon and into the nighttime hours. Late Sunday, a “tornado emergency” was declared for Tupelo and surrounding areas. Meteorologists urged residents to take cover.
“Damage has been reported in the City of Tupelo,” the mayor’s office said in a Facebook post just before 11 p.m. “Emergency crews are currently assessing the degree of damage. Please do not get out and drive.”
Photos retweeted by the National Weather Service in Memphis showed several downed trees and power lines. Tupelo Middle School sustained some damage, as well as houses and businesses.
There were multiple reports of damage to homes on Elvis Presley Drive, just down the street from the home where the famed singer was born. Presley was born in a two-room house in the Tupelo neighborhood but there was no indications that the historic home sustained damage. It’s now a museum.
But just down the street on Elvis Presley Drive, a tornado tore the roof off the home of Terrille and Chaquilla Pulliam, they told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. About 10 family members took shelter inside the house, and “we got everybody inside in time,” Terrille Pulliam said.
Calhoun County Sheriff Greg Pollan said Calhoun City also “was hit hard tonight.”
“Light poles have been snapped off. Trees in a few homes. Trees on vehicles. Damage to several businesses. Fortunately we have had no reports at this time of injuries,” Pollan posted on Facebook, asking people to stay off the roads. “Emergency personnel are working feverishly to open the roads as quickly as possible.”
News outlets also reported tornados near Yazoo City, Byram and Tchula earlier in the day. The National Weather Service in Jackson shared several images of funnel clouds across different parts of the state.
As the system moved east, storms damaged homes in a Kentucky town early Monday and a tornado watch for much of the day covered large parts of Alabama and Georgia.
In the southern Kentucky town of Tompkinsville, a severe storm Monday morning damaged several homes and knocked down trees and power lines, Fire Chief Kevin Jones said. No injuries were reported, he said. The National Weather Service was checking to see whether the damage appeared consistent with a tornado.
At one point Monday, a tornado warning prompted residents of Atlanta to seek shelter. Atlanta police late Monday morning were responding to a call of a tree down on a house on the city’s west side, police spokesman Anthony Grant said. There were no immediate reports of injuries there, he said.
Atlanta firefighters responded to multiple calls of trees down, Atlanta Fire Rescue said in a statement late Monday morning. The agency was not aware of any significant injuries, but asked residents to be on guard as falling trees and limbs still posed a threat.
Georgia Power reported about 3,000 outages in the southwest part of the city. GreyStone Power reported more than 3,000 outages in Douglas and southern Fulton counites.
A warm, moist air mass was in place as an upper-level disturbance moved across the area, touching off the storms over Mississippi, said Mike Edmonston, National Weather Service meteorologist in Mississippi.
“The ingredients were just enough for the development of severe storms,” he said. Three survey teams from the weather service were preparing to assess the damage in Mississippi, he said.
More storms are in store for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia on Tuesday, forecasters said. Tuesday’s storms could bring wind gusts of up to 70 mph (113 kph) and hail to the size of golf balls, said the National Weather Service in Jackson, noting that “tornadoes are likely Tuesday into Tuesday evening” in parts of Mississippi.