Tornado death toll crosses 30 as storms pummel South

Tens of thousands left without power as storm, packing heavy rain, heads for Georgia

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At least 31 deaths have resulted from the large, stubborn storm system that was making its way through the South on Tuesday, a day after more than a dozen people were killed when tornadoes flattened homes and businesses in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Forecasts showed the same powerful, slow-moving storm system continuing to threaten residents across the South Tuesday afternoon and evening, with another round of howling winds, pounding rain, flash flooding and tornado conditions possible.

"We're concerned about the flood risk as this [storm] moves, because it's not a fast-moving system and that's been one of our problems," Al Jazeera meteorologist Nicole Mitchell said.  

Tens of thousands of customers have been left without power, including in Kentucky, which did not report tornadoes but was slammed with severe storms. Thousands more hunkered down in basements and shelters as The National Weather Service issued watches and warnings for more tornadoes in Alabama.

Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama and Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi have both declared states of emergency. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, where the storm is expected to move next, has also preemptively declared a state of emergency.

The dangerous weather unnerved residents a day after the three-year anniversary of a historic outbreak of more than 60 tornadoes that killed more than 250 people across Alabama on April 27, 2011.

The system is the latest onslaught of severe weather a day after a half-mile-wide tornado carved an 80-mile path of destruction through the suburbs of Little Rock, Ark., killing at least 15 people. Tornadoes or severe storms also killed one person each in Oklahoma and Iowa on Sunday.

President Barack Obama has also approved a disaster declaration for Faulkner County in Arkansas, which was particularly hit hard. 

With the designation, Arkansans will be eligible to apply for individual assistance to cover the costs of temporary housing, home repairs, disaster unemployment assistance, Small Business Administration low interest loans, medical expenses and other needs. 

In southern Tennessee, two people were killed in a home when a storm suspected to be a tornado hit Monday night, Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Mike Hall said. The winds destroyed several other homes as well as a middle school in the county that borders Alabama, Hall said.

The Mississippi death toll included six killed in Winston County. That toll includes a woman who perished in the day care center she owned in Louisville, county coroner Scott Gregory told The Associated Press late Monday. Louisville is home to about 6,600 people.

It was unclear if any children were in the day care center at the time, said William McCully, acting spokesman for the Winston County Emergency Management Agency.

Trees in Louisville had been snapped in half and stripped of their branches, while sheet metal had twisted itself around road signs and tree trunks. Rescue workers stepped gingerly over downed power lines.

The tornado in Louisville also caused water damage and carved holes in the roof of the Winston Medical Center, according to an Associated Press reporter at the center. There were about 15 patients in hospital rooms and eight or nine in the emergency room, where evacuations were underway.

"We thought we were going to be OK then a guy came in and said, 'It's here right now,'" said Dr. Michael Henry, head of the emergency room. "Then boom ... it blew through."

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press 

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