Storm death toll raised to 18 in Southeast storms

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ATLANTA (AP) — Emergency officials are reporting three additional deaths in southern Georgia from violent storms, bringing the overall toll to at least 18 people killed over the weekend by a severe weather system sweeping the Southeast.

The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency gave the updated figure in a news release Sunday afternoon. The agency had reported total 11 deaths earlier in the day.

Eight deaths were confirmed in Cook County in rural southern Georgia. County Coroner Tim Purvis said Sunday morning that seven people were found dead at a mobile home park struck by an apparent tornado. It was not known if the additional death was discovered there as well. Purvis did not immediately return a phone call.

There were also two deaths apiece in neighboring Brooks and Berrien counties.

A woman says she and her parents were fortunate to escape with their lives as a storm destroyed their home in rural south Georgia.

Jenny Bullard had her arm in a sling Sunday afternoon as she searched for salvageable belongings amid the rubble that was her family’s Cook County home. An apparent tornado smashed through the center of the brick house before dawn.

The 19-year-old Bullard says a wall and a door fell on her, but she managed to reach her father and help free him from a pile of debris. They escaped with her mother through a hole in the wall of what had been a home office.

Out of 11 confirmed storm deaths in Georgia, the coroner said seven people were killed in Cook County. Bullard says it’s “a horrible tragedy.”

No respite from the specter of tornadoes was in sight for the Georgia-Florida line, however. The National Weather Service said Sunday that southern Georgia, northern Florida and the corner of southeastern Alabama could face “intense and long track” tornadoes, scattered damaging winds and large hail.

“A severe thunderstorm and tornado outbreak is expected today across north Florida and south Georgia, with the significant severe threat also expected to extend southward into central Florida and northeastward into South Carolina this evening,” the weather service’s storm prediction center.

Catherine Howden of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency said earlier Sunday that the deaths occurred in Cook, Brooks and Berrien counties in southern Georgia near the Georgia-Florida line. Another 23 people were injured.

She said the deaths were related to severe weather but could not specify whether tornadoes were the cause. Tornado warnings had been issued for parts of Georgia overnight.

Cook County Coroner Tim Purvis said an apparent tornado “leveled” numerous mobile homes before dawn Sunday in the park near Adel. He said emergency responders were still searching for survivors hours later.

Purvis estimated the park has about 40 mobile homes total and roughly half of them were destroyed.

Brooks County Coroner Michael Miller said two people died after their mobile home got struck by an apparent tornado, which he estimated moved the home roughly 100 yards.

“A tornado hit a mobile home, picked it up and put it in the middle of Highway 122,” Miller said. “I don’t know if it rolled or was lifted, but it blocked the entire highway.”

He said the storm struck in the middle of the night, at about 4 a.m. Sunday, and both people inside the home were pronounced dead at the scene.

Officials in Berrien County could not be reached for comment.

The southeastern United States has been pounded by storms, high winds and unstable weather over the weekend. Four people died after a tornado with winds above 136 mph tore a 25-mile path across southern Mississippi before dawn Saturday.

The National Weather Service in Jacksonville, Florida, has issued a tornado warning for Echols, Clinch and Ware counties in southeastern Georgia. A severe thunderstorm warning was in effect for the Florida panhandle.RELATED-

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