Officials confirmed that at least two people died and two others were hurt when a severe storm ripped through homes and toppled tree branches in the Florida Panhandle early Thursday morning.
Kristy Kolmetz, the public information officer for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in northwestern Florida, said a tornado touched down in the county sometime between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Ms. Kolmetz did not provide additional information about the deaths and injuries.
The National Weather Service did not confirm that a tornado had touched down in the county.
“In that area there was total destruction of homes, and there were several downed power lines and downed debris on the roadways,” Ms. Kolmetz said.
Due to severe weather, the Washington County School District was closed Thursday.
High winds and heavy rains in Florida were caused by a series of thunderstorms that moved across the south overnight and into Thursday.
The storms moved eastwards from Mississippi, Alabama, northwestern Arkansas. There were at least seven people injured in the storms, two of them critically.
Mayor Doug Sprouse, Springdale, Ark. (the town where the seven victims were injured), declared an emergency in the area on Wednesday. “Many residents have been displaced from their homes and numerous businesses have reported significant damages,” Mr. Sprouse said in a statement.
Tallahassee in the Florida Panhandle and southern Georgia were both under a tornado warning Thursday morning. This was in effect through the afternoon. According to the Weather Service scattered severe thunderstorms were expected to move east throughout the afternoon. Wind gusts could reach 60 miles per hour.
The Weather Service advised those living in the affected areas that they should secure their belongings and warn them about possible power outages or downed trees.
Bob Oravec, a lead forecaster for the National Weather Service, said that, on Thursday, “there is a chance for severe weather from the Florida Panhandle across pretty much the entire East Coast.”
According to PowerOutage.US (a website that aggregates data from utilities), more than 19,000 customers in Mississippi, 22,000 in Alabama, and 22,000 in Tennessee lost power on Thursday morning.
Source: NY Times