Tornadoes in Southeast kill 6, flatten houses
ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) - Survivors told of cowering in closets or running for a sturdy bathroom a day after a tornado-spawning storm system passed through the Southeast, flattening homes and killing at least six people in three states.
Across the region, dozens more were injured, scores of buildings were damaged and thousands were without power. Meteorologists confirmed Thursday that tornadoes had struck Louisiana and Alabama a day earlier and twisters were suspected in Mississippi, Georgia and the Carolinas.
"It looked like the `Wizard of Oz,"' Henry Taylor said, describing a funnel cloud outside his home near Rock Hill. "It was surreal, and for a moment, a split second, you say to yourself `This ain't real,' then reality sets in, and you know it is."
The 50-year-old Taylor said he and his wife sought refuge in a closet as the storm roared. Part of his roof was torn off, windows were blown out and trees had been snapped in two. But he and his wife escaped injury.
"I held my wife closely in the closet and I prayed. I said, `Oh my God, this is it. I'm going to be buried in the debris. We're going to die,"' Taylor said Thursday, wiping back tears.
The sheriff for surrounding York County asked South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for state assistance in cleaning up the debris. Authorities bloy trapped. Mobile homes were tossed off their foundations. In all, 15 people were hurt in the area.
Back in the Rock Hill area of South Carolina, 32-year-old Shannon Hydrick said she was in her mobile home with two nephews when the storm hit. Not long after a tornado watch was reported on television, the screen went blank and her front door began to slam on its own.
"It happened so fast," said Hydrick, who tried to get the boys into a bathroom for safety. "I knew we were in trouble. I was scared we weren't going to make it."
A few seconds later, Hydrick said felt like the house was lifting before the wind stopped, followed by silence.
Realizing she and the boys were safe, Hydrick took a deep breath, then ran outside to survey damage. Trees in the backyard were snapped, part of the roof was ripped off, and debris was strewn all over yard.
"At least I knew we were safe," Hydrick said. "It's a miracle we were alive."
Damage was reported in several parts of Alabama. In Sumter County, in the west-central part of the state, an elderly woman was in her home as a tree crashed into it. She had to be taken to the hospital.
In Tuscaloosa, home of the University of Alabama, the day was a harsh reminder of the threat of violent weather for communities still recovering from the killer tornadoes.
"It makes you sit up on the edge of the chair a little more," said Tom Perryman, who works for the school system in Tuscaloosa County, which was hard hit in April.
Nearby, DeGeer's dog Jack rode out the storm in her mobile home without injury, but the trailer itself didn't fare as well.
"It looks like I redecorated with a wilderness theme. There are trees through my house," she said.
In southern Louisiana, a suspected tornado hit a neighborhood in Houma, splintering a home. Crews helped clean up storm debris near a school and the Red Cross sent workers to help with damage assessments.