Tropical Storm Claudette turned deadly over the weekend as it hit parts of the South.
The storm is being blamed for 13 deaths, all in Alabama, as it produced flash floods, damaging straight-line winds and a few tornadoes that destroyed dozens of homes.
Eight children in a van from a youth home for abused or neglected children were killed in a fiery multi-vehicle crash on a wet highway that also killed a man and his baby in another vehicle.
The crash happened Saturday about 35 miles south of Montgomery on Interstate 65 after vehicles likely hydroplaned, Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock told the Associated Press.
The van, carrying children ages 4 to 17, belonged to the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, a youth home operated by the Alabama Sheriffs Association. Michael Smith, the ranch’s CEO, said the van was heading back to the ranch near Camp Hill, northeast of Montgomery, after a week at the beach in Gulf Shores. It caught fire after the wreck and Candice Gulley, the ranch director, was the only survivor. A bystander reportedly pulled her from the flames.
Gulley remained hospitalized Sunday in Montgomery in serious but stable condition. “She’s going to survive her physical injuries,” Smith told AP. Two of the dead in the van were Gulley’s children, ages 4 and 16. Four others were ranch residents and two were guests, Smith said.
“This is the worst tragedy I’ve been a part of in my life,” Smith added after visiting the crash site Saturday. He drove Sunday to the ranch to talk to the remaining residents, who had returned from Gulf Shores in a separate van and did not see the wreck.
“Words cannot explain what I saw,” Smith said of the accident. “We love these girls like they’re our own children.”
The crash also claimed the lives of two other people in a separate vehicle. Garlock identified them as 29-year-old Cody Fox and his 9-month-old daughter, Ariana, both of Marion County, Tennessee.
Multiple people were injured in the crash.
Meanwhile, a 24-year-old man and a 3-year-old boy were also killed Saturday when a tree fell on their house just outside Tuscaloosa, according to Capt. Jack Kennedy of the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit. Makayla Ross, a 23-year-old Fort Payne woman, died Saturday after her car ran off the road into a swollen creek, DeKalb County Deputy Coroner Chris Thacker told WHNT-TV.
The deaths occurred as drenching rains from Tropical Depression Claudette pelted northern Alabama and Georgia late Saturday. Farther south, as much as 12 inches of rain was reported along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
As of Monday morning, Claudette was still a tropical storm with sustained winds of 40 mph, centered near Greenville, North Carolina. Before heading into the Atlantic later Monday, Claudette may cause localized wind damage and flooding in portions of eastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks. An additional 1 to 2 inches of rain are possible, gusts could reach 50 mph and an isolated tornado could spin up.
Other notable weather
Storms could produce scattered areas of large hail and severe winds Monday across the Northeast, including the Interstate 95 corridor in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
High heat will continue in the Southwest, with plenty of triple-digit temperatures this week. However, it won’t be quite as hot as last week, with fewer records.
Parts of southern and western Texas will also be sizzling, with dangerous heat index values of 110 to almost 120 degrees. This is due to heat plus high humidity in places like Brownsville, McAllen, San Antonio, Austin, Big Bend National Park and Fort Davis.
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