Storms sweep southern US, Midwest as death toll rises to 11

  • People clean up the classrooms of Benton Middle School on Saturday, which lost its roof from Friday's severe weather in in Benton, La. (Henrietta Wildsmith/The Shreveport Times via AP)

HOUSTON — Severe storms sweeping across southern portions of the U.S. and up into the Midwest were blamed Saturday in the deaths of at least 11 people, including two first responders, as high winds, tornadoes and unrelenting rain battered large swaths of the country.

Storm-related fatalities were reported in Texas due to icy weather, in Alabama from a deadly tornado and in Louisiana, where winds were so strong that a trailer home was lifted off its foundation and carried several hundred feet. A man drowned in Oklahoma and the storms even touched the Midwest with at least one death on an icy highway in Iowa. Hundreds of thousands of people were left without power from Texas to Ohio, parts of highways were closed in Oklahoma and Arkansas due to flooding and hundreds of flights were canceled at Chicago’s international airports.

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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a state of emergency to assist crews working to restore power around the state.

Two first responders were killed and another was critically injured in Lubbock, Texas, Saturday morning after they were hit by a vehicle while working the scene of a traffic accident in icy conditions, officials said.

A man drowned near Kiowa, Oklahoma, after he was swept away in floodwaters, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said Saturday. Randall Hyatt, 58, of Wardville, was overwhelmed by rushing water while getting out of his stalled truck.

In Alabama, three people were confirmed killed near Carrollton in Pickens County, the National Weather Service in Birmingham said on Twitter. The Alabama Emergency Management Agency said the deaths were caused by an “embedded tornado within a long line of intense thunderstorms.”

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Earlier Saturday, in northwestern Louisiana, firefighters found the bodies of an elderly couple near their demolished trailer in Benton, the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office said via Facebook.

The National Weather Service in Shreveport said a tornado with winds of around 135 mph had touched down in Bossier Parish. Drone footage showed smashed buildings, a large vehicle flipped on its side, toppled trees and debris scattered over a large area.

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