YAZOO CITY, Miss. (AP) - Morgan Hayden and Joe Moton stepped
carefully through nails, broken glass and pink tufts of insulation,
the remnants of their home leveled by a tornado as severe storms
killed at least 10 people in rural Mississippi and two in Alabama.
The couple had planned to marry Monday, but with little left
besides the clothes on their backs, they weren't sure what to do.
"It'll work out, though," 27-year-old Hayden said Sunday, a
day after the tornado ripped through as she and Moton, 31, huddled
in a bathtub. The bathroom was the only room that wasn't destroyed.
They were unhurt, and the stories of other survivors show how
much higher the toll could have been as authorities tried to get a
better handle on the destruction from violent weather that churned
through a half-dozen Southern states over the weekend.
Dale Thrasher, 60, had been alone in Hillcrest Baptist Church
when the tornado ripped away wood and metal until all that was left
was rubble, Thrasher and the communion table he had climbed under
as he prayed for protection.
"The whole building caved in," he said. "But me and that
table were still there."
Sunday was sunny and breezy as Thrasher and about three dozen
members of the Yazoo City church stood in a circle and sang "Till
the Storm Passes By." Thrasher reminded the group that the church
has survived tough times before. They rebuilt after their building
was destroyed by arson about 10 years ago.
"The Lord brought us through the fire, and brought us back
bigger and better," Thrasher said. "The Lord will bring us back
bigger and better this time, if we stick together."
Hundreds of homes also were damaged in the tornado, which carved
a path of devastation from the Louisiana line to east-central
Mississippi, and at least three dozen people were hurt. National
Weather Service meteorologist Marc McAlister said the tornado had
winds of 160 miles an hour and left a path of destruction at least
50 miles long.
"This tornado was enormous," said Gov. Haley Barbour, who grew
up in Yazoo County, a county of about 28,000 people known for
blues, catfish and cotton. The twister wreaked "utter
obliteration" among the picturesque hills rising from the flat
Mississippi Delta, the governor said.
Mississippi's Choctaw County had the most confirmed deaths:
five, including a baby and two other children. Sherry Fair rushed
to her aunt's home in the county. She said an hour and a half after
the tornado passed, a woman lay dying in a ditch along a dirt road
beside the body of her husband.
"She was laying there just crying," a shaken Fair said. "She
was broke up bad. It hurt me watching, but nobody could get to her.
The ambulances couldn't get through because of the trees."
Authorities had not released a list of the dead. All inquiries
were referred to Coroner Ricky Shivers, who nearly became a victim
himself when the twister flipped his truck four times. He went back
out in his hospital gown to help identify bodies and was back in
the hospital late Sunday.
Tornadoes also were reported in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee
and Alabama. A twister damaged about 20 homes in West Tennessee on
Saturday, but resulted in no injuries. The storm system tracked
northeastward, destroying two hangars and overturning planes at a
small airport in northwest Georgia early Sunday and later damaging
two schools and several mobile homes in Darlington, S.C.
The system also spawned thunderstorms that downed trees and
power lines in Maryland. Power to most customers was restored by
In Mississippi, all that remained of Sullivan's Crossroads
Grocery in Choctaw County was a pile of cinderblocks and some jars
of pickled eggs and pigs' feet. Owner Ron Sullivan, his wife and
four other people were inside when the storm tore the wooden roof
off. They came away with cuts and bruises.
Sullivan had been on the phone, describing the weather
conditions to a meteorologist, when the line went dead and the
twister hit, hurling Sullivan into a cinderblock wall.
"I was levitated and flew 15 feet over there to the back
wall," he said. "The only reason I wasn't killed was the wall was
still there. After I hit it, it collapsed."
A steel fuel storage tank, about 10 feet long, was uprooted by
the twister and rolled into the store, coming to rest against a
freezer. Hiding on the other side of the freezer was Sullivan's
Across the street, the home of the parents of Houston Astros
pitcher Roy Oswalt was reduced to rubble by the tornado. Oswalt
himself was driving a bucket loader Sunday, trying to knock down a
damaged tree on the property.
The tornado went on to cut about a 10-mile path through the
county, hacking off the tops of pine trees about eight feet above
the ground before slamming into three mobile homes.
Alphonzo Evans, 38, had been sleeping in one of the homes when
he heard the wind come up. He had planned to take cover in a hole
outside, but it was too late. He shut the door.
"By the time I turned around, the wind came up and I went
flying," Evans said.
In Alabama, authorities attributed two deaths to severe weather.
A 50-year-old woman was killed when she slipped and hit her head as
she headed to a storm shelter Saturday, and a 32-year-old man was
killed when the car he was riding in struck a tree that had blown
down across a road. More than 30 other injuries were reported in
the state, none serious.
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley planned to visit Albertville on Monday in
northern Alabama to look at storm damage in the area. South
Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford planned to tour Darlington County.
Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were set to
survey the worst damaged counties in Mississippi on Monday with
state emergency officials, a first step toward a possible
presidential disaster declaration, state emergency management
spokesman Greg Flynn said.
Associated Press writers Emily Wagster Pettus in Yazoo City,
Jack Elliott Jr. in Jackson and Maria Burnham in French Camp
contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)