Violent storms across swathes of the Southeast have caused several deaths and caused major flooding this weekend, with landslides also reported in several areas. Rain in parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee reached an astonishing one to one and a half feet, according to CBS News contributing meteorologist Jeff Berardelli.
Per the Associated Press, a tornado in Columbus, Mississippi killed one woman in a house undergoing renovation, while a man in Knox County, Tennessee drowned after his vehicle was submerged in floodwaters. The tornado resulted in 12 other injuries, but they are not believed to be life-threatening, Columbus Mayor Robert Smith Sr. told the AP. An additional death was reported in Craighead County, Arkansas, after a 76-year-old man and his vehicle was swept away by high water after seemingly driving around barricades, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Destruction in Columbus included damage at First Pentecostal Church that Rev. Steve Blaylock described as a “total loss,” while sheds and outbuildings in the city’s east side were “mostly demolished,” the AP wrote. Used-car dealer Lee Lawrence said the storm demolished four buildings on his lot and blew out car windows, telling the AP it “will be a start-over deal. I can’t say it will come back better or stronger, but we’ll come back.”
The AP wrote:
A photographer working for The AP in Columbus said some antique cars on Lawrence’s lot were parked among the damage and a nearby pet grooming business appeared now to be mostly twisted piles of metal. A printing shop had been speared by a pipe with great force and what seemed to be a vacant commercial building nearby appeared heavily damaged.
Some 300 river gauges across the Southeast remained above flood levels on Sunday, according to CNN.
Tennessee’s Knox County was put under a flash flood warning on Saturday afternoon, CNN reported, with the National Weather Service advising residents that “this is a particularly dangerous situation. Seek higher ground now.” Amid the rising floodwaters, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency declared a state of emergency. Officials also implemented regional states of emergency in Alabama and Mississippi.
There were additional reports of rockslides wiping out part of Interstate 40 near the Tennessee-North Carolina border, with all lanes covered by rocks, trees, and dirt. Construction engineer Ted Adams of the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s District 14 told the Citizen Times it was a “small slide with rocks falling from a pretty high elevation, and when they were hitting the road, they were bouncing into the eastbound lanes.” The road may be closed for up to a week, the paper wrote.
Mudslides in Chattanooga also wiped out a Subway retail location on Saturday morning. Per the Times Free Press, owner Owen Megahee closed the location on Friday after observing an adjacent hill seemed about to collapse.
“If they had it open, and employees and customers had been in there, we’d be talking about something much more serious,” fire department spokesman Bruce Garner told the paper. “People could have been hurt or killed for sure.”
Nearby, the Dunlap Fire Department posted a video of rising floodwaters spilling well over the boundaries of a waterway on Saturday.
The city of Nashville broke a rainfall record, with its February the wettest in over a century, CNN reported. In Lynchburg, between Nashville and Chattanooga, the grounds of the Jack Daniels distillery were flooded, though employee Henry Feldhaus IV told CNN that all employees and stores of whiskey were safe.
While the storms are largely over, CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said that many of the floods will not crest until later in the week as rains continue to drain into waterways. According to the AP, tens of thousands of Appalachian Power customers in West Virginia remained without electricity as of Sunday afternoon.