Tropical depression Claudette kills at least 12 in Alabama as storm lashes southeastern U.S.

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Tropical depression Claudette claimed 12 lives in Alabama as the storm swept across the southeastern United States, causing flash flooding and spurring tornadoes that destroyed dozens of homes.

Ten people, including nine children, were killed Saturday in a two-vehicle crash, according to Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock, who said the vehicles likely hydroplaned on wet roads. Butler County Sheriff Danny Bond said multiple people were also injured. The victims were not immediately identified.

Meanwhile, a 24-year-old man and a three-year-old boy were killed when a tree fell on their house Saturday just outside the Tuscaloosa city limits, Capt. Marty Sellers of the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit told the Tuscaloosa News. Sellers did not immediately identify the victims, and a medical examiner could not be reached early Sunday.

The deaths occurred as drenching rains pelted much of northern Alabama and Georgia late Saturday. As much as 30 centimetres of rain was reported earlier from Claudette along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

A tropical storm warning was in effect in North Carolina from the Little River Inlet to the town of Duck on the Outer Banks. A tropical storm watch was issued for South Santee River, in South Carolina, to the Little River Inlet, forecasters said.

Flash flood watches

Top winds remained near 45 km/h, and National Hurricane Center forecasters predicted Claudette would strengthen back to tropical storm status on Monday over eastern North Carolina as it went out to sea in the Atlantic Ocean.

Flash flood watches on Sunday were posted for northern Georgia, most of South Carolina, the North Carolina coast and parts of southeast Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

Danny Gonzales, right, stands in front of his flooded house with his neighbour, Bob Neal, after Claudette passed through in Slidell, La., on Saturday. (Gerald Herbert/The Associated Press)

More than 20 people were rescued by boat due to flooding in Northport, Ala., WVUA-TV reported. The Tuscaloosa County Emergency Management Agency tweeted that local Red Cross volunteers were on hand to help those who were affected. A shelter was opened in Northport.

Village Creek in Birmingham rose above flood stage to four metres, the National Weather Service in Birmingham tweeted.

The system was located about 35 kilometres west of Atlanta. It was moving east-northeast at 20 km/h, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory Sunday morning.

Suspected tornado

Claudette was declared organized enough to qualify as a named tropical storm early Saturday morning, well after the storm’s centre of circulation had come ashore southwest of New Orleans.

Shortly after landfall, a suspected tornado spurred by the storm demolished or badly damaged at least 50 homes in a small town in Alabama, just north of the Florida border.

Pickup trucks pass each other on the flooded Cedar Lake Road in Biloxi, Miss., on Saturday, as water from Claudette begins to recede. (Rogelio V. Solis/The Associated Press)

Sheriff Heath Jackson in Escambia County said a suspected tornado “pretty much levelled” a mobile home park, toppled trees onto houses and ripped the roof off a high school gym. Most of the damage was done in or near the towns of Brewton and East Brewton, about 77 kilometres north of Pensacola, Fla.

“It kind of affected everybody,” Jackson said. “But with those mobile homes being built so close together, it can take a toll on them a lot more than it can on houses that are spread apart.”

Tornadoes were also reported in southwest Georgia.

Damage from the storm was also felt in north Florida, where winds — in some cases reaching 137 km/h — caused an 18-wheeler to flip on its side.

States drenched

The storm also dumped flooding rains north of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana and along the Mississippi coast, inundating streets and, in some areas, pushing water into homes. Later, the storm was drenching the Florida Panhandle and, well inland, a broad expanse of Alabama.

Rhiannon Corrall and her husband, Ian Corrall, observe the wave action from Claudette’s winds as they take their daily walk on Front Beach in Ocean Springs, Miss., on Saturday. (Rogelio V. Solis/The Associated Press)

Forecasters said the system could still dump five to 10 centimetres of rain in the region, with isolated accumulations of 20 centimetres possible.

Separately, tropical storm Dolores made landfall on Mexico’s west coast with near-hurricane force. As of Sunday morning, it had dissipated over Mexico. Its remnants had maximum sustained winds of 35 km/h, and it was centred about 275 kilometres east of Mazatlan, Mexico.

Heavy rainfall totals up to 38 centimetres were expected across the southwest and western coastal areas of Mexico throughout the weekend. Forecasters were warning of the potential for flash flooding and mudslides.





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