Sunday October 4th, 2015 5:23PM

At least 34 dead as South braces for more twisters

By The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- Ruth Bennett died clutching the last child left at her day care center as a tornado wiped the building off its foundation. A firefighter who came upon the body gently pulled the toddler from her arms.

"It makes you just take a breath now," said next-door neighbor Kenneth Billingsley, who witnessed the scene at what was left of Ruth's Child Care Center in this logging town of 6,600. "It makes you pay attention to life."

Bennett, 53, was among at least 34 people killed in a two-day outbreak of twisters and other violent weather that pulverized homes in half a dozen states from Iowa to Tennessee. The child's fate was not immediately known.

As crews in Mississippi and Alabama turned from search-and-rescue efforts to cleanup, the South braced for a third round of potentially deadly weather Tuesday. Tornadoes usually strike in the late afternoon and evening.

One of the hardest-hit areas in Monday evening's barrage of twisters was Tupelo, Miss., where a gas station looked as if it had been stepped on by a giant.

Francis Gonzalez, who also owns a convenience store and Mexican restaurant attached to the service station, took cover with her three children and two employees in the store's cooler as the roof over the gas pumps was reduced to aluminum shards.

"My Lord, how can all this happen in just one second?" she said in Spanish.

On Tuesday, the whine of chain saws cut through the otherwise still, hazy morning in Tupelo. Massive oak trees, knocked over like toys, blocked roads. Neighbors helped one another cut away limbs.

"This does not even look like a place that I'm familiar with right now," said Pam Montgomery, walking her dog in her neighborhood. "You look down some of the streets, and it doesn't even look like there is a street."

On Sunday evening, roughly 15 tornadoes - one killing at least 15 people in Arkansas - carved a path of destruction in the South and the country's midsection, according to estimates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center. On Monday, around 50 tornadoes ravaged the South, the agency said.

Among those killed was 21-year-old University of Alabama swimmer and dean's list student John Servati, who was taking shelter in the basement of a Tuscaloosa home when a retaining wall collapsed on him.

His death - and that of at least two others in Alabama - came the day after the third anniversary of an outbreak of more than 60 tornadoes that killed more than 250 people across the state.

In Kimberly, Ala., north of Birmingham, the firehouse was among the buildings heavily damaged.

Four firefighters suffered little more than cuts and scrapes, but the bays over the fire trucks were destroyed, and the vehicles were covered with red bricks, concrete blocks and pieces of the roof.

The trucks were essentially trapped, so the town had to rely on nearby communities for emergency help.

Louisville was also one of the hardest-hit areas, with officials reporting at least nine dead in and around town because of a powerful tornado with a preliminary rating of EF4, just shy of the top of the scale.

Sennaphie Yates arrived at the small local hospital to check on her grandfather just ahead of the twister. As the funnel cloud closed in, staff members herded people into a hall.

"They had all of us against the wall and gave us pillows. They said, `Get down and ... don't get up,'" she said.

The winds knocked down two walls and tore holes in the roof. Doctors moved some emergency room patients to a former operating room and sent some to other hospitals.

Bennett's day care center was not far from the hospital. Her niece Tanisha Lockett had worked at Ruth's Child Care since it opened seven years ago.

She said all but the one child - a 4-year-old girl who had been in the center's care since she was a baby - had been picked up before the storm. The child, whose name was not released, was taken to a Jackson hospital.

On Tuesday, Bennett's family and those who worked for her stepped over schoolbooks, first aid supplies and a Hooked on Phonics cassette as they tried to salvage paperwork.

"We're just trying to keep a smile on our faces," said Jackie Ivy, an employee. "I cried all last night."
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 9 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 9 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 9 months ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 9 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 9 months ago )
Local/State News
UN is next stop for Obama after success with Iran, pope; top issues are IS, Syria, Russia
NEW YORK (AP) — Fresh from successes on Iran and with the pope, President Barack Obama still carried heavy burdens into critical meetings this week at the U.N. General Assembly.They include the threat...
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )
Stunning Congress, House Speaker Boehner announces plans to resign; tea party declares victory
WASHINGTON (AP) — Plunging Congress into deeper turmoil, House Speaker John Boehner abruptly announced his resignation Friday, shutting down a tea party drive to depose the nation's highest-ranking Re...
6:14PM ( 1 week ago )
Tornado heavily damages 10 homes but causes no injuries on island in South Carolina
JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — A tornado quickly blew through a neighborhood on the South Carolina coast early Friday and blew out windows, knocked down trees and heavily damaged ten homes.The tornado touc...
5:08PM ( 1 week ago )
Caterpillar says it may cut more than 10,000 jobs by 2018, lowers 2015 revenue expectation
Caterpillar is planning another round of job cuts that could exceed 10,000 people through 2018, as the construction and mining equipment maker adjusts to downturns in key markets.That could amount to...
10:06AM ( 1 week ago )
Escaped tarantula grounds Atlanta-bound flight in Baltimore
An eight-legged creature that escaped in the cargo hold of a passenger flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International grounded the plane and sent passengers onto another flight.
By The Associated Press
9:06AM ( 1 week ago )