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Death toll from severe storms rises to 17


BOONE'S CHAPEL, Ala. — Vicious storms and howling winds smacked the Deep South, killing at least seven people in Alabama including three family members whose homes were tossed into nearby woods.

Rebecca Parks carries out salvaged personal items from the remains of a tornado damaged neighbor in east Clinton, Miss., Friday. Although her own home sustained damage, Parks and her children assisted neighbors in their cleanup. The state was hit by a line of severe storms that spawned at least one tornado causing extensive damage and multiple injuries. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

he Big Lots store on I-55 frontage Road in Jackson, Miss. sustained substantial damage to exterior signage when a strong storm swept through the area on Friday. AP Photo/The Clarion-Ledger, Joe Ellis

In Alabama's Washington County, about 50 miles north of Mobile, a mother and her two children were among those killed, said state emergency management agency director Art Faulkner. One person was reported dead in Mississippi's Greene County.

A car drives through a partially flooded street, Friday in Decatur, Ala. Waves of strong storms left damage across a wide area of Alabama on Friday, slamming into homes and businesses and forcing promoters to cancel the first race of a busy weekend at the Talladega Superspeedway. AP Photo/The Decatur Daily, John Godbey

Combined with earlier reported fatalities in Arkansas and Oklahoma, the confirmed death toll had risen to 17 by early Saturday — the nation's deadliest storm of the season.

Henley Hollon said Saturday that his 65-year-old brother, Willard Hollon, lived across the street from him in the Boone's Chapel community about 25 miles from Montgomery. Henley Hollon said Willard Hollon and Willard's two adult children, Steve and Cheryl, were killed when the storms roared through.

Henley Hollon said he had been watching the weather forecast on television — and thought the worst was over when the winds started to pick up.

"It got up real fast. The lights went out," he said. "We had to feel our way into the hall. It lasted less than a minute."

He then went outside to check on the limbs down in his yard and walked across the road to check on his brother.

"When I shined the light out there I could see it was all gone," Henley Hollon said. Two mobile homes had been ripped from their foundations, and all that remained Saturday morning were wooden steps and flowerbeds.

"The trailer was anchored down and the anchors are gone," said Autauga County Chief Deputy Sheriff Joe Sedinger. "But the steps are still there and the blooms are still on the flowers."

Willard lived in one of the homes with Steve, who had recently retired from the Air Force. Steve's wife and two daughters also lived there — they had been remodeling a home nearby so the family could be close to Willard, Henley Hollon said.

Cheryl lived in the home next door. An American flag that had flown in front of her house was draped over a tree limb Saturday, about 100 feet from where here home had stood.

At Boone's Chapel Baptist Church, near where the mobile homes had once been, the sanctuary's walls and roof were gone. But hymnals were still on the pews. The adjoining Sunday school wing and gymnasium remained with little damage. Tammie Silas joined other church members in cleaning up debris and looking for any mementos that might be salvageable.

As she sorted through debris, she found two family photos that appeared to come from the Hollons' homes. "This is all they've got left," she said as she clutched the two photos in her hands.

Seven people were hurt in the storm, including a firefighter injured during the emergency response, Sedinger said.


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