Brutal storms moving into the East after a harrowing night of tornadoes in the South leaves 19 dead

Susan Miller
Walton Sun

The East Coast braced for an onslaught of severe weather Monday after a harrowing Easter night that saw people huddled in basements, closets and tubs as tornadoes raged across the South, leaving at least 19 dead.

Destructive winds, tornadoes and flooding were possible Monday, the Weather Channel said, one day after at least 39 reported tornadoes pounded several states. Much of the South was under flash flood, tornado and thunderstorm warnings and watches.

The possibility of severe thunderstorms stretched from northern Florida into parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast through Monday afternoon or evening, the Weather Channel said. The biggest concern: Destructive wind gusts and tornadoes from central Virginia into central and eastern parts of the Carolinas and southeastern Georgia.

By later in the afternoon and evening Monday, the storm system could extend farther into the Northeast.

The toll so far is staggering: Eleven people were killed in Mississippi, and six more died in northwest Georgia. Two other bodies were pulled from damaged homes in Arkansas and South Carolina.

In Mississippi and Louisiana, the dangerous system spawned at least 13 radar-confirmed tornadoes Sunday that damaged up to 300 homes and buildings. More than 60,000 customers were without power across the two states.

The Chattanooga, Tennessee, area and several counties in northwest Georgia appeared to take the brunt of the destruction. Murray County, Georgia, Fire Chief Dewayne Bain told WAGA-TV that two mobile home parks were severely damaged. Five people were killed and five others hospitalized; another person was killed when a tree fell on a home in Cartersville, Georgia, the station reported.

At least 14 people were hospitalized in the Chattanooga area, where search and rescue teams from at least 10 fire departments were going door to door responding to more than 300 emergency calls, the fire department said.

The fierce storms system caused flooding and mudslides in mountainous areas overnight, and knocked out power for about 750,000 people in a 10-state area from Texas to Georgia up to West Virginia, according to

The National Weather Service recorded hundreds of reports of trees down across the region, including many that punctured roofs and downed power lines.

Fatalities were reported across four counties in Mississippi, according to local authorities. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency.

"This is not how anyone wants to celebrate Easter Sunday," Reeves said on Twitter. "As we reflect on the death and resurrection on this Easter Sunday, we have faith that we will all rise together."

As the severe weather swept across Mississippi on Sunday, Melinda Drummond and her husband, Steve, were trying to make the best of the Easter holiday during the coronavirus shelter-in-place order.

While the couple were watching television in their 1919 home in Soso, the power began to blink. In minutes, a large, catastrophic tornado ripped through the town, shredding trees, bringing down power lines and damaging homes.

"By the time I got the TV back on, they were showing the tornado right at Soso," she said.

Drummond said it seemed like the tornado took forever. "It roared and roared and stuff just started hitting the house hard," she said.

The couple took shelter in the closet as the tornado passed through. A large tree snapped in two, falling within inches of the couple's home.

At least one person in Soso died from injuries sustained in the tornado, Jones County Coroner Burl Hall said Sunday evening.

The National Weather Service reported tornadoes over the northwest and north-central parts of Louisiana. The city of Monroe said the storm damaged commercial buildings and homes in multiple neighborhoods.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards also declared a state of emergency.

Contributing: Jessica Flores, Steve Kiggins, USA TODAY; Lisi Beveridge and Wilton Jackson,The Clarion Ledger (Jackson, Miss.); The Associated Press