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April 29, 2014

Tornadoes tear through South, add to US death toll

LOUISVILLE, Miss. (AP) — A dangerous storm system that spawned a chain of deadly tornadoes over three days flattened homes and businesses, forced frightened residents in more than half a dozen states to take cover and left tens of thousands in the dark Tuesday.

As the storm hopscotched across a large swath of the U.S., the overall death toll was at least 29, with 12 killed Monday and 17 Sunday in a band stretching from Oklahoma to Alabama. Forecasts showed the storm continuing to move east Tuesday, with Georgia and Alabama residents waking to sirens, howling wind and pounding rain.

Others found their loved ones missing and their homes pulverized. Along Mississippi Highway 397 on the eastern edge of Louisville, firefighters picked through the remains of mobile homes, searching for three people unaccounted for after a tornado tore through. Twenty firefighters linked hands and waded through an area where wood frame homes had also been heavily damaged. Rescue workers stepped gingerly over downed power lines and trees that were snapped in half and stripped of branches.

The Louisville tornado caused water damage and carved holes in the roof of the Winston Medical Center. The emergency room was evacuated Monday.

"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."

Republican state Sen. Giles Ward huddled in a bathroom with his wife, four other family members and their dog as the tornado destroyed his two-story brick house in Louisville and flipped his son-in-law's SUV upside down onto the patio.

"For about 30 seconds, it was unbelievable," Ward said. "It's about as awful as anything we've gone through."

Officials said seven people died in Winston County, where Louisville is the county seat, with about 6,600 people. It was unclear whether those any of those deaths were included in the state's total tally.

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