A major storm has been responsible for several deaths in Alabama and Georgia.
The hardest hit was Enterprise, in southeastern Alabama. A tornado hit Enterprise High School yesterday afternoon, killing eight students and one adult. It destroyed the gym and heavily damaged the rest of the building. Crews are still on the scene, digging through the rubble and looking for anyone who might be trapped.
Martha Rodriquez, a 15-year-old sophomore, said she had left the school about five minutes before the storm hit. When she returned, a hall at the school had collapsed, she said.
"The stadium was destroyed and there were cars tipped over in the parking lot and trees were ripped out. There were trees and wood everywhere. It was just horrible," she said.
More than 40 people were brought in to an Enterprise hospital as a violent storm front crossed the state. The same system was blamed for a tornado that killed a 7-year-old girl in Missouri.
Several school systems across Alabama closed or dismissed students early Thursday as the storm front approached from the west, extending the length of the state.
"The clouds were so dark that all the lights out here came on," said Walter Thornton, who works at Enterprise Municipal Airport.
One man also died in Wilcox County, Alabama, late last night, where the storm destroyed over 20 homes.
In Muscogee County, Georgia, the northern part of Columbus was hit hard. The storm left thousands of homes in the dark and severely damaged buildings and roofs and caused dozens of accidents on the roads. A tornado ripped apart businesses and homes, but no injuries were reported.
Tornadoes also hit Richland, in Stewart County in southwest Georgia. Storms there knocked down power lines, tossed vehicles, and destroyed several buildings. No fatalities are reported in Richland.
And at least one person died from the storm in Taylor County, with four others injured. Severe thunderstorms ripped through Taylor late last night, ripping walls off homes and knocking down trees and power lines.
A storm which struck Americus damaged Sumpter County's main hospital. Two are confirmed dead in Americus.
Six deaths are also reported in Baker County, Georgia, where two mobile homes where destroyed.
Our Raycom Media sister stations are reporting on the widespread damage:
For tips on preparing for tornados, visit NOAA's tornado FAQ.
Next week, March 4 - 9, is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Texas. April and May are traditionally the worst months for severe weather in East Texas, but the season appears to have begun early this year. KTRE-TV Meteorologits Conley Isom and Brad Hlozek will bring you special reports and information throughout next week to help you be prepared for severe weather, should it strike East Texas.
Sources: The Associated Press and WTOC-TV, Savannah, GA