April 14 (UPI) — Residents in parts of the Deep South began the grim task of cleanup Tuesday, one day after dozens of tornadoes tore through the region, killing at least 34 people.
The two-day swath of severe thunderstorms left a trail of destruction in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas on Sunday and Monday.
At least 46 twisters touched down in eight states, though meteorologists were working to confirm the activity.
As of Tuesday afternoon, some 200,000 people were without power in the affected region, including 99,000 in Arkansas, 44,000 in Kentucky, 33,000 in South Carolina, 25,000 in North Carolina and 24,000 in Mississippi, according to PowerOutage.us. At its height, power outages affected about 1.3 million customers in the country, including parts of the Northeast.
At least 34 people died in this week’s storms. With the 33 deaths earlier this year, the Weather Channel said 2020 will be the deadliest since 2012, when 68 people died.
The strongest tornado confirmed as of Tuesday was an EF-4 in Mississippi, where 12 people died, most in Jefferson Davis County. Another nine were killed in South Carolina, eight in Georgia, three in Tennessee, and one each in Arkansas and North Carolina. Those figures could increase, officials said.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves took an aerial tour of damage in his state along with U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and U.S. Rep. Michael Guest.
“We took a pretty hard punch on Easter Sunday,” he said. “We lost the lives of some pretty wonderful people in our state, and we lost an awful lot of property.”
Reeves and the governors of Louisiana and Alabama declared states of emergency over the storms.
In Tennessee, where tornadoes earlier in the year killed dozens, an EF-3 tornado touched down in Morristown with winds up to 145 mph.
“There’s been loss of life, there’s been significant loss of property,” Gov. Bill Lee said. “And there are teams on the ground right now beginning the process of evaluating all of the damage and all of what needs to be done to support those down in that community and in those communities that are suffering this morning.
Chattanooga, Tenn., Mayor Andy Berke said the path of damage in Hamilton County was about a half-mile wide and 4 miles long.
“If you can think about what that is like to see 4 miles of relatively consistent damage — I saw houses that were destroyed, places where roofs had shingles knocked off of them, places where outside pools were turned over — everything you could see, I saw from the sky.
“It was devastating.”