At least two dead as strong winds and rain hit southern US

Several US states hit by storms that toppled trees and power lines, and damaged vehicles, homes and other buildings.

The grounds crew lays the tarp down on the field in anticipation of approaching inclement weather prior to the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Los Angeles Angels in Dunedin, Florida on Saturday [Douglas P DeFelice/Getty Images via AFP]

At least two people have died in storms in the southern United States, authorities said on Saturday, as strong winds toppled trees, flipped vehicles and smashed homes and other structures across several states.

A 27-year-old man was killed in St Landry Parish, Louisiana when a tornado struck a home, local television news outlet KLFY reported on Saturday.

Seven other people were also injured, and several vehicles were damaged by the high winds.

Another man, 48, was killed when strong winds partially crushed a mobile home on Friday in Caddo Parish, also in Louisiana, the local sheriff’s office said.

Strong winds were also reported in parts of Florida and Mississippi, ripping down power lines and damaging several buildings.

“Many people were saying, ‘Hey, we know what to do. Sadly, we’ve been through it before,’ and they pulled together as a community,” the mayor of Panama City, Florida, Mark Sheldon, told The Panama City News Herald local news outlet.

In Orange Beach, on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, four-inch hail was reported on Saturday morning – “near softball size”, said the US National Weather Service for Mobile, Alabama.

“Looking back at records since 1950, this is only the second documented 4″ hail report” in the 20 counties the agency serves, it said on Facebook.

The storms come just days after experts at Colorado State University warned that the US should prepare for a sixth year of above-average Atlantic hurricanes this season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.

In a closely watched outlook published on Thursday, the forecasters said the country could see 17 named storms and eight hurricanes.

“We are forecasting a well-above-average hurricane season,” said Colorado State research scientist Philip Klotzbach.

Last year, the US saw a record 30 named storms.

On Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center also announced it had increased its averages for the Atlantic hurricane season, to 14 named storms and seven hurricanes, up from 12 and six previously.

The centre said it made the change based on the most recent 30-year period on record, from 1991 to 2020.

The increase “reflects a very busy period over the last 30 years”, it said in a statement, and may be linked to better observation tools or “due to the warming ocean and atmosphere which are influenced by climate change”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies