Tornadoes leave five dead in southeastern US

Many more have been injured as storms rip through the southeastern part of the United States.

    Violent storms killed at least five people in the United States on Wednesday, after heavy winds and tornados touched down across the country's southeast. 

    A total of 42 tornadoes were reported in the outbreak of severe weather, which struck across a swathe of the southeast from Louisiana to the Carolinas.

    The storms injured dozens of people, damaged homes and tore down trees and powerlines.

    Three people lost their lives in northeast Alabama when a confirmed tornado touched down in Rosalie.

    The tornado was ranked as an EF2 on the six point scale used to rate tornadoes, running from EF0 to EF5.

    The winds of an EF2 tornado range from 179 to 217km/h.

    Just 10km away in the town of Ider, another three adults were hospitalised in critical conditions after the daycare in which they were seeking shelter was flattened.

    Another two people were killed in Tennessee. The state was hit by a number of tornadoes, including an EF3 twister, the strongest confirmed tornado in the outbreak, according to The Weather Channel.  

    The winds of an EF3 tornado can be as strong as 266 km/h.

    Drought relief

    However, the storms also brought some benefit in the form of torrential rain. Knoxville in Tennessee reported 124mm of rain in 24 hours, which is more rain than is expected in the entire month of November.

    This is a large amount of wet weather for a region to cope with in one go, but the rain is desperately needed because the area is currently in the grip of a severe drought.

    A wildfire burns on a hillside after a mandatory evacuation was ordered in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in a picture released November 30, 2016 [Reuters]

    The drought has been classed as "exceptional" by the US Drought Monitor, the official agency that monitors rainfall amounts in the country.

    This means that parts of the southeast are experiencing widespread crop and pasture losses, as well as a shortage of water in reservoirs and streams.

    The drought has largely been blamed for the scale of wildfires that have plagued the state of Tennessee over the last few wees, including the recent inferno that destroyed part of the town of Gatlinburg.

    The heavy rain is believed to have extinguished all the fires in the state, although a few are still smouldering.

    The severe weather is now moving away from the eastern coast of the US and is steadily winding down.

    Temperatures in Tennessee are likely to drop below freezing over the next few nights, and more rain is expected over the weekend.

    It is hoped that the change in the weather will prevent more fires from spreading.

    Additional reporting by Steff Gaulter.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News and Agencies


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