Death toll rises to 8 as tornadoes sweep through Southeast

The death toll from the severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that damaged homes and businesses across the United States over the past two days now stands at eight, officials said.

The National Weather Service received 68 reports of tornadoes in the Gulf Coast and Southeast on Tuesday and Wednesday, along with about 500 reports of wind damage from Florida to Maine. The reports mentioned damages to homes and businesses, indicating some were destroyed, as well as numerous downed trees and power lines throughout the storm area.

Tornadoes were reported in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida on Tuesday, and Florida, Virginia and North Carolina on Wednesday. It’s possible that some of those storm reports reference the same funnel cloud, as there are numerous counties listed multiple times.

Officials said severe weather killed five people Wednesday, four in Virginia and one in South Carolina. They came a day after tornadoes killed two people in Louisiana and one in Mississippi.

The Virginia State Police said three people were killed in Waverly, where a funnel cloud was reportedly spotted, and “significant debris” left two state highways impassible in the area.

Officials in Appomattox County said one person was killed after a reported tornado left a trail of destruction that stretched at least eight miles. In a Facebook post, they said some 100 structures were damaged — 20 severely — and 40 percent of the county’s homes were without power.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, joining governors in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi who issued similar decrees for the severe weather.

McAuliffe’s office said the governor was heading out to survey the damage on Thursday.

The National Weather Service’s reports indicate multiple houses were destroyed near Richmond, Virginia, and five houses were damaged near Granville, North Carolina, a snippet of the storm’s impact.

The reports also say winds toppled trees and power lines in areas where tornadoes weren’t seen.

In South Carolina, the Darlington County Coroner’s Office said a 58-year-old man was killed by a falling tree as he tried to remove storm debris from a road near his home.

Those downed trees and limbs helped knock out power to tens of thousands of people along the East Coast, some of whom were still without electricity on Thursday morning.

That included about 45,000 customers in Connecticut, local utility company Eversource said.

Tornadoes kill three in the South, more possible along East Coast

Tornadoes killed at least three people and damaged dozens of homes and businesses as a powerful storm system swept through the Gulf Coast on Tuesday evening, officials said.

More tornadoes were possible along the East Coast today, the National Weather Service warned, saying parts of Virginia and North Carolina had the highest chance of seeing extreme weather.

The service’s Storm Prediction Center received 31 reports of tornadoes in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and the Florida panhandle on Tuesday. Some of those reports may reference the same tornado, as several counties had multiple damage summaries listed.

The National Weather Service said one person was killed when a tornado destroyed a mobile home near Purvis, Mississippi. The St. James (Louisiana) Parish’s official Facebook page added that a tornado hit a mobile home park in Convent, killing two people and sending 30 to the hospital with injuries. The storm also damaged about 100 RVs and trailers there, officials wrote.

Elsewhere in Louisiana, the National Weather Service’s reports indicate tornadoes caused “significant damage” to a gym in Ascension Parish and “widespread structural damage” to homes and businesses in St. John the Baptist Parish. There were also several reports of winds knocking down trees and power lines, and one mention of a 120 mph gust near Mandeville.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency in seven parishes.

“I ask all Louisianans to pray for the victims of the terrible storms that touched down in Louisiana today and especially at the Sugar Hill RV Park in Convent,” he said in a statement.

Governors in Alabama and Mississippi also declared states of emergency ahead of the storms.

The National Weather Service is expecting strong-to-severe thunderstorms from New York to Florida on Wednesday, but said severe weather was most likely to hit northeast North Carolina and southeast Virginia. The service said there was a “moderate risk” of severe thunderstorms in those areas, the second-highest level on a five-tier system, and tornadoes were a possibility.

The service issued several flash flood watches and wind advisories throughout the mid-Atlantic and southeast. Residents in the storm’s path are encouraged to monitor their local forecasts.

Tornadoes possible as strong thunderstorms set sights on Gulf Coast

Forecasts are calling for severe thunderstorms along the Gulf Coast later today, according to the National Weather Service, some of which could generate tornadoes and powerful wind gusts.

The service’s Storm Prediction Center says there is a moderate risk, the second-highest level on a five-tier system, of severe thunderstorms in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle. It said the strongest storms could generate tornadoes, high winds and hail.

About 2.8 million people live in the “moderate risk” area, according to the center, a roughly 39,000-square-mile swath that includes cities like Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Montgomery, Alabama, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Other Southern states had lesser risks of severe weather, but areas from Texas to Tennessee and Georgia could see at least isolated storms.

The National Weather Service had not issued any watches or warnings for thunderstorms or tornadoes as of 9:30 a.m. CT on Tuesday. But wind advisories were issued in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana Mississippi and Alabama, warning of gusts of up to 45 mph later today.

The storm is also expected to produce heavy rain, and flash flood watches were issued in parts of Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Residents of the affected states should monitor their local forecasts.

Seperately, the National Weather Service issued winter storm watches in parts of Illinois and Michigan, where between 4 and 11 inches of snow was expected to fall tomorrow and Thursday.

Winter weather advisories were also issued for parts of Pennsylvania, New York and New England, where a wintry mix was expected tonight and Wednesday morning.

Tropical Storm Karen Aims For Gulf Coast

Tropical Storm Karen is bearing down on the Gulf Coast with winds near 65 m.p.h. and should make landfall this weekend.

Heavy rain, damaging winds and high tides are being predicted as the storm is likely to make landfall near the Mississippi/Alabama borderline and move northeast through Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

Hurricane forecasters say the storm is trying to build an eye by wrapping a heavy thunderstorm band around the storm center. If the storm can completely wrap around the center forecasters think Karen could reach Category 1 Hurricane status before making landfall.

The White House and FEMA have recalled some employees laid off during the government shutdown because of the impending storm. Hurricane forecasters are exempt from the shutdown because their work is deemed “vital to protecting life and property.”