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Five dead as tornadoes, snow storms strike in US

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Winter arrives: A commuter in Pennsylvania protects himself Photo: Todd Berkey/The Tribune-Democrat via AP

Winter arrives: A commuter in Pennsylvania protects himself Photo: Todd Berkey/The Tribune-Democrat via AP

AP

Winter arrives: A commuter in Pennsylvania protects himself Photo: Todd Berkey/The Tribune-Democrat via AP

Extreme wind gusts, swirling snow and widespread flooding made travelling treacherous as a storm system moved into north-eastern United States, leaving rising water and at least five deaths in its wake across the south.

More than 400,000 homes and businesses were without power yesterday after the US National Weather Service (NWS) warned of gusts up to 97kmh from Virginia into New England. Falling trees damaged homes and power lines in many places.

North Carolina and Virginia, where hundreds of people had to be pulled from flooded homes, had the most customers without electricity.

With water levels rising fast after up to 20cm of rain in just three days, the Tennessee Valley Authority said it began making controlled releases from some of its 49 dams in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina.

That could lead to more flooding downstream, authorities warned.

Creek water was still raging Alabama's Buck's Pocket State Park, where a person was seen inside a car as it disappeared under the surface two days earlier. Rangers walked for kilometres above the swollen creek but found no trace of the vehicle.

In the Tampa, Florida, area, tornadoes blew a tree on to a mobile home, trapping an elderly woman, and toppled a construction crane along an interstate highway.

The dangerous winds formed the leading edge of a band of weather that stretched from Tennessee to Maine, blowing snow into northern states. As much as 10cm fell overnight in Ohio, contributing to car accidents in the Akron area, and the Ohio Department of Transportation urged people to make room for nearly 1,300 state crews working to improve the icy conditions.

Up to 20cm of snow was predicted in West Virginia, and Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia, where he said more than 500 people had to be rescued from their homes as the waters rose.

Citing floods, rain, snow, power outages or all of the above, many school districts cancelled classes in state after state. Authorities confirmed five storm-related fatalities, in Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Anita Rembert was killed and her husband was injured, but their child and two grandchildren were unhurt as high winds destroyed two mobile homes near the town of Demopolis, Alabama. They emerged to a scene littered with plywood, insulation, broken trees and twisted metal.

At least four other people died in vehicles that were hit by falling trees or lost control in heavy rain or floods.

Authorities pleaded with motorists to avoid driving where they can't see the pavement.

Irish Independent