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March came roaring in like a lion across the south-central United States on Thursday and Friday as a heavy-hitting, severe weather system ushered in fierce winds, damaging tornadoes and flash flooding, killing at least 13 people and injuring several others.
The fatalities occurred in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky over the course of the two days as the storms trekked east. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency confirmed with AccuWeather that the first fatality had happened when a tree fell onto a vehicle in Yazoo County, located in the west-central part of the state.
The second fatality occurred in Arkansas's Scott County after a man's truck was likely swept from the roadway and into the Poteau River by flash flooding, according to the Scott County Sheriff's Department. At least 7 inches of rainfall fell over Waldron, Arkansas, where the man had been found.
Three deaths in Kentucky were confirmed Friday evening by Gov. Andy Beshear, who had declared a state of emergency ahead of the severe weather.
"I am sad to report we have one weather-related death today in Simpson County," the governor said over Twitter. The second death, this one in Edmonson County, was reported a little over half an hour later. The third death was confirmed in Logan County on Friday night. No further details were provided on the fatality, though the state wasn't spared by the vicious winds that had raked across the south-central U.S. the previous day.
A fourth Kentucky death was also reported Friday, with the Fayette County coroner's office telling CNN that a 41-year-old woman died in Lexington after a tree fell onto a vehicle. Beshear confirmed a fifth Kentucky death on Saturday morning.
The Kentucky State Police reported several incidents over social media where semi-trailer trucks had been blown off the road and, in some cases, overturned. "This is an example of just how dangerous the winds are today across Kentucky," Beshear said over Twitter, sharing one of the images from the police. "In some areas, thunderstorms are producing winds of 80 mph -- strong enough to blow tractor trailers off the road."
Similar circumstances led to three fatalities in Alabama. In Talladega County, a man was killed when a tree fell onto his parked car. Information regarding the two additional deaths, in Lauderdale and Madison counties, was not immediately available.
"Earlier today, a strong storm system made its way through our state and tragically claimed the lives of three Alabamians. Please join me in uplifting their families and communities in prayer during this heartbreaking time," Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced on Twitter.
Two deaths in Tennessee were both related to falling trees, including the death of an elderly woman in the city of Hendersonville after a tree fell on her while out walking. In Humphreys County, a man died after a tree fell on the vehicle he was riding in, county officials told CNN.
The winds were just as brutal on Thursday as the storms began to ramp up in Texas. Severe thunderstorm watches were issued for portions of North Texas, and a tornado watch issued shortly before 3 p.m. CST covered the Dallas-Fort Worth area and over 9.8 million residents. The punishing winds tearing across the flat landscape prompted a severe thunderstorm warning for Fort Worth and later Dallas, the National Weather Service warning it was a "life-threatening" situation as the "destructive storm" would contain wind gusts up to 80 miles per hour.
The warnings were issued around the evening rush hour, and at least 21 motor vehicle crashes occurred during the severe weather event in the Fort Worth area, MedStar Mobile Healthcare Chief Transformation Officer told AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell. Among the crashes were three rollovers, including one involving an 18-wheeler. At least four people were transported to a local hospital.
At 6 p.m. CST, the Office of Emergency Management activated sirens for the city of Dallas due to damaging winds, officials warning residents to seek shelter immediately.
Wind gusts at North Fort Worth gusted up to 80 mph Thursday evening, and Comstock, located in the southwestern Texas county of Val Verde, reported a gust of up to 81 mph. One of the highest wind gusts from Thursday didn't occur in Texas, however, but in Caddo, Oklahoma, where a wind gust reached 100 mph.
One of the top wind reports in Kentucky on Friday was in Hardinsburg, a little over 50 miles southwest of Louisville, where a gust was reported at 75 mph. One of the highest wind gusts reported was in Wears Valley, Tennessee, at 98 mph.
Power outages across the U.S. surged into the hundreds of thousands by Friday evening amid the vicious winds that tore at power lines and downed trees. The highest number of customers without power was in Kentucky where over 470,000 customers were left in the dark by Friday evening, according to PowerOutage.US. The state was followed by Tennessee, which had over 332,000 customers without power.
Of those who lost power due to the storms on Friday, many were still left in the dark Sunday morning. In Kentucky, roughly 245,000 customers remain without power, along with over 42,000 in Tennessee.
Air travel was snarled as well, especially in Texas on Thursday when 382 flights were canceled and another 537 delayed at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, according to FlightAware. Another 98 flights were canceled and 124 were delayed at Dallas Love Field Airport. In Kentucky, Lexington's Blue Grass Airport lost power during the day on Friday, forcing the cancellation or diversion of the day's remaining flights. Power to the airport was not restored until early Saturday morning.
While strong winds were one of the bigger threats throughout the event, a few tornadoes also spawned as the storms darkened the sky.
The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center recorded six preliminary tornado reports in Texas and Louisiana on Friday and an additional two in Kentucky on Friday. In addition to these reports, a survey team from the NWS office in Little Rock determined the damage in Kirby, Arkansas, from Thursday was consistent with a strong EF2 tornado.
NWS survey teams assessed damage in Pickton, Texas, located in Hopkins County, and confirmed an EF1 tornado with estimated max wind gusts of 110 mph had torn through the area. Other surveys have yet to be completed.
Additional reporting by AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell.
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