North America

Children killed, thousands without power after violent storms hammer US

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Storms bringing heavy rain, tornadoes and flooding hit the southern US, uprooting trees, bringing down buildings and killing six, including three children.

Tornadoes, wind gusts of up to 70 mph and pounding hail remained threats early on Monday from eastern New York and into New England, as the remnants of a deadly storm that killed at least five people, including three children,  pushed out to sea.

More than 79,000 homes and businesses were without power in Virginia, according to the tracking site PowerOutage.US, with 89,000 more outages reported across Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Maryland and New York.

Two children were killed on a back road in East Texas when a pine tree fell on to the car in which they were riding in a severe thunderstorm on Saturday near Pollok, about 240km southeast of Dallas.

The tree "flattened the car like a pancake", said Captain Alton Lenderman of the Angelina County Sheriff's Office.

The children, aged eight and three, were pronounced dead at the scene although both parents, who were in the front seat, escaped injury, he said.

At least 25 people were taken to hospitals for treatment after a suspected tornado struck the Caddo Mounds State Historic Site in East Texas during a Native American cultural event in Alto, said Police Chief Jeremy Jackson. At least eight were critically hurt.

The affected areas will get heavy rains, winds with gusts of up to 70 mph (110 kph) and the possibility of hail, NWS Weather Prediction Center in Maryland said.

"This is an ongoing threat," said Brian Hurley, from the center.

"There are short spin-ups, pockets of heavy rain and damaging winds that can still hit before this pushes off shore."

The weekend's storm brought tornadoes that killed at least five people, including three children, in the U.S. South, officials said.

The massive storm system sped from Texas eastward with dozens of twisters reported as touching down across the South from Texas through Georgia into Pennsylvania.

Nearly 2,300 US flights were cancelled by Sunday evening, more than 90 per cent of them at airports in Chicago; Houston, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio and a dozen major airports on the Eastern Seaboard, according to FlightAware.com.

But no major flight delays were reported on the east coast before 6 am Monday.

The storm's cold front brought snow to Chicago on Sunday, with 1 to 3 inches (2.5-7.6 cm) reported in central Illinois.

Two children, siblings aged three and eight, were killed on Saturday when a tree fell on the car in which they were sitting in Pollok, Texas, said a spokeswoman for the Angelina County Sheriff's Department.

A third child, Sebastian Omar Martinez, 13, drowned late on Saturday when he fell into a drainage ditch filled with flash floodwaters near Monroe, Louisiana, said Deputy Glenn Springfield of the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office.

In another storm death nearby, an unidentified victim's body was trapped in a vehicle submerged in floodwaters in Calhoun, Louisiana, Springfield said.

In Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant said one person was killed and 11 injured over the weekend as tornadoes ripped through 17 counties and left 26,000 homes and businesses without electricity.

Kayla Easterling outside her church, with several damaged buildings.
Kayla Easterling outside her church, with several damaged buildings.
AP

In addition, three people were killed when a private jet crashed in Mississippi on Saturday, although Bryant said it was unclear whether it was caused by the weather.

Soaking rains could snarl the Monday morning commute on the East Coast before the storm moves off to sea.

"The biggest impact rush hour-wise probably will be Boston, around 7 to 8 o'clock in the morning, and around New York City around 5 or 6 o'clock, before sunrise," NWS meteorologist Bob Oravec said. 

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