Jacqueline Williams was delivering newspapers early Monday morning in Mississippi when raging floodwaters swept her car into a rain-swollen creek.
Trapped inside, she called 911, desperately trying to help emergency rescuers help her. She relayed directions. The dark water crept higher. Williams told the operator she could hear sirens.
Then, the call dropped.
Hours later, a swift-water recovery team found her body, authorities said, and when the water receded they removed the car.
At the scene Monday, Florence Police Chief Richard Thomas solemnly told reporters that Williams was known in the town of 4,000 people. His children played baseball with her children. He had known her family for years.
“Words don’t describe it,” Thomas said. “Words don’t describe it. They’re really good people. I hate that it happened.”
Florence wasn’t the only small southern community devastated this week. Dangerous storms tore across Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina, leaving five dead, including Williams.
More than 150 miles north of Florence in Glendora, Mississippi, the wife of the town’s mayor was killed Sunday when a 100-year-old tree fell on their home during rough storms. Shirley Taylor Thomas was struck by one of the tree’s limbs, Tallahatchie County Sheriff William Brewer told ABC affiliate WTVA 9 News.
Mayor Johnny Thomas said he and his wife were trying to escape their home when the tree fell and crushed the roof.
Also Sunday, a mother and her three-year-old daughter were killed when a tornado with 110 mph winds flipped their mobile home in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, about 50 miles west of Baton Rouge. Witnesses told KLFY-TV that the child’s father wasn’t home when the tornado struck. He returned later to find the bodies of 38-year-old Francine Gotch and 3-year-old Nevaeh Alexander beneath the debris.
Both were pronounced dead at the scene, reported CBS News.
The tornado was 20 yards wide and traveled for nearly one mile on the ground, according to the National Weather service. Shortly after authorities issued a warning, the tornado touched down, St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Maj. Ginny Higgins told the Associated Press.
“Seconds later it hit,” Higgins said. “It hit the trailer, flipped it and tore its side off. There was a mother and daughter inside and both were killed.”
A fifth person was killed Monday when another mobile home in South Carolina was destroyed by severe weather. The man was identified as 65-year-old J.C. Matthews, Jr., reported TV station WYFF 4.
Matthews brother reportedly rushed to the mobile home after the storm hit, the Union County coroner said. He spoke to Matthews and called 911, but the man was declared dead at the scene.
“It was almost like a war zone,” neighbor Charles Holbert told the TV station. “Trees down, roofs of buildings everywhere. It looked like a bomb went off out here.”
Since Sunday morning, at least 16 tornadoes have been reported from Texas to Georgia, according to ABC News.
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