BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Severe thunderstorms dumped heavy rains across the U.S. Southeast on Monday and caused flash flooding in central Alabama, where crews in small boats and military trucks had to rescue dozens of people from their homes and cars.
In Mississippi, a 9-year-old girl was swept away and killed after the storms dropped nearly 7 inches (18 centimetres) of rain there over the last two days. A possible tornado in another part of the state damaged homes and hurt seven people, and in Georgia a motorist in metro Atlanta was found dead after driving into a creek swollen with rainwater.
Strong winds downed trees, power lines and snarled rush hour commutes. National Weather Service forecasters in North Carolina say video indicates a tornado touched down near the town of Belhaven in the eastern part of the state. Authorities say a pickup truck was lifted off the highway, injuring a man and his son.
In Pelham, just south of Birmingham, more than 4 inches (10 centimetres) of rain fell from 7 p.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. Monday. Police and firefighters rescued people who became trapped in flooded townhomes and a mobile home park.
Dozens of cars had water up to their roofs. Rescue workers wearing life jackets waded through muddy water nearly to their chests to reach stranded residents. Hundreds of people in mobile homes on higher ground were isolated because water covered the only entrance to the complex.
Pelham Fire Battalion Chief Mike Knight said people realized at daybreak that the water, 7 feet (2.1 metres) deep in some places, was surrounding their homes. Some people had to abandon cars after driving into areas where the flood water was deeper than expected.
A development of townhomes along a creek in Pelham also flooded, with some units getting 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 metres) of water. Some residents went to their second floors to wait for the water to recede, while others evacuated.
Shannon Martin said she had water up to the top of her toilet bowl in her first floor. She and a friend waded through flooded streets to get inside and floated out some of her belongings in a cooler.
Martin, a renter, said she had insurance to cover her belongings, but doesn’t know where she will live. “I just moved here,” she said.
At an apartment complex in the suburb of Homewood, rescue crews used a boat to help several residents and pets get out of flooded first-floor units. Mudslides toppled trees and blocked several roads.
Some roads in Birmingham became impassable due to flood waters and fallen trees, and schools delayed opening in many areas of central Alabama due to the heavy rains.
At one point, Birmingham-based Alabama Power Co. reported 11,000 homes and businesses without electricity. That was cut to about 4,500 Monday afternoon.
In Augusta, Georgia, where the Master’s golf tournament is being held this week, practice round play was halted Monday two hours after it began. It was the first time in 11 years that weather washed out a Monday practice round.