Waverly | A powerful storm system has swept across the East Coast, killing three people in Virginia and knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses in the region. A day earlier, the system spawned about two dozen tornadoes along the Gulf Coast, damaging hundreds of homes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. Three people were killed and dozens were injured. Forecasters warned the threat wasn’t over and that more than 88 million people were at risk of seeing some sort of severe weather.
In the Midwest, heavy snow and biting winds led to mass flight cancellations at Chicago airports and school closings in several states. In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency last evening. The tiny farming town of Waverly in the state’s peanut-growing region took the brunt of the storm. The Virginia State Police said at least five structures were damaged in the town of approximately 2,000.
The names of the victims were not released, but state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in a statement that they were a 2-year-old child and two men, ages 50 and 26. She said their bodies were found about 300 yards from their mobile home. Roads leading into the town had to be closed because of downed trees and debris tossed by winds gusting to 96.56 kph, Geller said. Timothy Williams said a friend had just come by to take his new car for a drive when the storm hit. It picked the car right off the ground, and put it right back on the ground, said Williams, 44. He said they remained in the car until the storm passed.
Bill Bunting with Storm Prediction Center estimated 20 to 24 tornados hit from Louisiana to Florida on Tuesday. Crews were still surveying so he couldn’t be more specific. The storms dumped several inches of rain in Alabama, Georgia and elsewhere, causing flash flood watches. Schools were closed in parts of Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas ahead of the storms.
In Mississippi, 73-year-old Dale Purvis died of blunt-force trauma in a mobile home west of Purvis, Lamar County Coroner Cody Creel said. Florida Governor Rick Scott said an apparent tornado in the Pensacola area significantly damaged more than 70 homes and 24 apartments, leaving three people with minor injuries.
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