4 dead as severe weather moves through central U.S.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Severe thunderstorms spawned suspected tornadoes and triggered widespread flooding that left at least four people dead in Kentucky and Arkansas. The system that stretched from Texas to the Canadian maritime provinces on Sunday had prompted emergency declarations a day earlier in Missouri, Indiana and Illinois.
In Western Kentucky, a 77-year-old man was driving when he apparently underestimated the depth of the water and strength of the current, and was swept off the road in Union County, the county coroner confirmed to CBS News. The victim was identified as Joseph Lee Nally.
In south central Kentucky, the body of a male was recovered from a vehicle submerged in floodwaters in a creek near the community of Franklin on Saturday, the Simpson County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. The victim’s identify was being withheld pending notification of relatives.
About 20 miles away, Dallas Jane Combs, 79, died after a suspected tornado destroyed her Adairville home earlier Saturday, the Logan County Sheriff’s Office told media outlets. Sheriff officials said Combs was inside the home when it collapsed on her. Combs was pronounced dead at the scene.
Authorities said Combs’ husband was outside putting up plastic to keep rain out of the home when he was blown into the basement area. He sustained minor injuries.
In northeast Arkansas, an 83-year-old man was killed after high winds toppled a trailer home. Clay County Sheriff Terry Miller told KAIT-TV that Albert Foster died Saturday night after the home was blown into a pond.
About 50 miles away, the National Weather Service said the roof was blown off a hotel in Osceola, about 160 miles north of Memphis, Tennessee.
In Middle Tennessee, the National Weather Service on Sunday confirmed an EF-2 tornado with maximum winds of 120 mph hit Clarksville on Saturday.
Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sandra Brandon said at least four homes were destroyed and dozens of others were damaged, while 75 cars at a tire plant parking lot had their windows blown out or were tossed onto one other.
“To look at what I’m looking at and know we didn’t lose anybody is just a miracle,” Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett told The Leaf-Chronicle.
At Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, a teenage girl was hit by falling debris at a college basketball game after an apparent lightning strike knocked a hole in the arena’s roof Saturday night. School director of marketing and digital media Kevin Young said the 15-year-old girl was taken to a hospital as a precaution. The extent of her injuries weren’t immediately released.
The game between Austin Peay and Murray State was stopped with 5:49 left in the second half due to the leaky roof. Fans took shelter in nearby hallways and athletic offices before play resumed after a more than three hour delay.
Austin Peay President Alisa R. White said on Twitter that athletics department officials and physical plant workers “did a great job handling a big crowd and the elements in what could have been a much worse situation.”
Clarksville is about 48 miles northwest of Nashville, Tennessee.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed an executive order earlier Saturday declaring a state of emergency ahead of the anticipated storms and flooding in parts of southern Missouri. The order activates the resources of the Missouri National Guard and ensures state resources are available in the event of weather damage.
Other state leaders have issued similar orders: Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb declared a disaster emergency for 11 counties and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner issued a state disaster proclamation for three counties hit by flooding.
A levee breach along the Kankakee River in northwestern Indiana had local officials urging about 30 homeowners to evacuate.
Keener Township Volunteer Fire Chief Randy Woods said the breach was relatively minor when it was discovered about 3 p.m. Friday near Demotte, about 50 miles southeast of Chicago. Local residents tried to sandbag the breach “to get it under control, but it just got bigger and bigger,” he said. Local firefighters were called to help them, but eventually everyone had to pull out for their own safety. No injuries were reported.
The weather service said record flooding was occurring along the Kankakee following several days of heavy rains and snowmelt that sent streams out of their banks from the Ohio River to Michigan and Wisconsin. Flood watches and warnings spanned multiple states Sunday morning, from Missouri to central Pennsylvania, while a wind advisory remained in effect for nearly all of Lower Michigan.
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