Violent storms, tornadoes leave 4 dead in South

The death toll rose to four on Monday as severe storms battered the South for a second day.

Severe weather killed two people in Mississippi overnight, including a woman who was desperately directing rescuers to her submerged car when she died in Florence, the Associated Press said.  Rankin County Coroner David Ruth says 52-year-old Jacqueline Williams ran off a road in Florence into a rain-swollen creek early Monday and dialed 911 from the sinking vehicle.

A woman also died in Glendora, Miss., when strong winds knocked a large tree onto her house Sunday night.

A mother, Francine Gotchand, and her 3-year-old daughter, Nevaeh Alexander, were killed on Sunday in Breaux Bridge, La., when a tornado flipped their mobile home.

Thousands of people remained without power Monday morning across the South. Scores of Alabama schools closed Monday because of the threat from strong storms.

Areas from northern Florida to North Carolina will continue to see severe weather through Monday evening, AccuWeather said. The storms will bring the risk of large hail, isolated tornadoes and flash flooding.

Portions of southern Alabama and the Panhandle of Florida remained under a tornado watch.

On Sunday, there were 11 reports of tornadoes in Texas and Louisiana, the Storm Prediction Center said.

Sunday's storms also brought hurricane-force winds, large hail and sparked flash flooding. Up to 6 inches of rain fell in some areas.

The St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana said the tornado that killed two people in Breaux Bridge roared near but did not damage several other homes and a high school, Maj. Ginny Higgins said.

"It was a tragedy that could have been even worse," Higgins told USA TODAY. "We are very much on edge. I hate the spring because we always have these awful storms."

The tornado was rated an EF-1, with peak winds of 110 mph, the National Weather Service said. It was on the ground for nearly 1 mile.

After Monday's storms move offshore, more storms could hit the region Wednesday and Thursday.

"Unfortunately, as we get rid of this storm it looks like we will just reload," AccuWeather meteorologist Frank Strait said. "And it could involve tornadoes. April is prime storm season, I'm afraid."

Contributing: Associated Press

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