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Storms tear through parts of South; Florence area spared major damage

April 20, 2019 GMT

A series of storms brought death and destruction to parts of the South on Friday but appeared largely to have spared the Florence area except for some damage from falling trees.

In Lake City, a pickup was destroyed in a passing storm.

A tree fell on a silver Toyota Tacoma parked at a house on Dansing Street near the intersection of Dansing and North Blanding streets in Lake City. The tree appeared to have damaged the roof of the house. According to county tax records, the house was constructed in 1940 and has 1,8OO square feet.

Two women and a man were outside the house briefly Friday afternoon but were not available for comment.

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There was another report of damage to a car in Olanta during the storm.

According to Levi James Jr., public information officer for the Florence County Emergency Management Division, other than the two vehicles and a number of trees being down on roadways throughout the county, the damage was minimal. James said there were no reports of injuries as a result of the storm.

Although portions of Florence County were placed under a tornado warning, there were no reports of a tornado touching down.

The county remains under a tornado watch until midnight tonight.

A strong storm system killed an 8-year-old girl in Florida and threatened to bring tornadoes to large parts of the Carolinas and southern Virginia.

A tree fell onto a house in Woodville, Florida, south of Tallahassee, killing the girl and injuring a 12-year-old boy, according to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. The office said in a statement that the girl died at a hospital while the boy suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Their names weren’t disclosed.

The same storm system was blamed for the deaths a day earlier of three people in Mississippi and a woman in Alabama.

The threat on Friday shifted farther east, where tornado warnings covered parts of northeast Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.

The national Storm Prediction Center said 9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were at a moderate risk of severe weather. The region includes the Charlotte, North Carolina metro area.

Torrential downpours, large hail and a few tornadoes were among the hazards, the National Weather Service in Raleigh, North Carolina, warned.

Radar readings appeared to show a tornado formed in western Virginia’s Franklin County, south of Roanoke, though damage on the ground still must be assessed, said National Weather Service meteorologist Phil Hysell. In South Carolina, authorities urged motorists to avoid part of Interstate 26 — the main artery from Upstate through Columbia and all the way to Charleston — because downed trees had left the roadway scattered with debris.

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In Georgia, the storm system knocked down trees, caused flooding and cut off power to tens of thousands of people.

A tree came down on an apartment complex in an Atlanta suburb, but only one person reported a minor injury and was treated at the scene, Gwinnett County fire spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In Forsyth County northeast of Atlanta, three firefighters suffered minor injuries when their firetruck overturned during heavy rain and wind, Fire Department Division Chief Jason Shivers told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people cleaned up part of a central Mississippi town hit hard by a tornado on Thursday.

Volunteers and family members were swarming the north side of Morton, where the National Weather Service says a twister with winds as high as 132 mph hit a neighborhood. More than 20 homes were heavily damaged or destroyed. The town of 3,500 is about 30 miles east of Jackson.

“When it stopped, there was nothing left,” Morton resident Sharon Currie told WAPT-TV. “I was going, ‘Oh my God. My house is gone.’”

Damage from the storm system was reported in at least 24 of Mississippi’s 82 counties. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency — the second one he has declared in less than a week due to tornadoes.

Authorities on Friday reported a third storm-related death in the state. Freddie Mobley, 63, died while helping cut a tree that had fallen on a house, Lincoln County Coroner Clay McMorris told the Daily Leader of Brookhaven. Mobley had made a few cuts on the tree and backed away when the trunk shifted before he could move, Deputy Coroner Ricky Alford said.

Two other people who were driving are being counted as storm-related deaths in Mississippi. A woman also died in Alabama when a tree fell on her mobile home Thursday.

Morning News reporter Matthew Christian contributed to this story.

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