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At least 19 dead after violent storms tear through south-eastern US states

Law enforcement officials search for residents to evacuat at a trailer park in Adel, Georgia Picture by Phil Sears/AP
By Brendan Farrington and Jay Reeves

At least 19 people have died after violent storms and tornadoes tore through south-eastern US states.

At least 15 deaths occurred in south Georgia alone, including seven from an apparent winter tornado which devastated a trailer park before dawn on Sunday.

Authorities reported four deaths on Saturday in Mississippi as the storm system intensified. The storm was so big parts of it threatened the Carolinas and north Florida.

In south Georgia's Cook County, coroner Tim Purvis confirmed seven people died at the mobile home park in the rural community of Adel, where about half of the 40 homes were levelled.

The 15 killed in south Georgia included two deaths each in the counties of Berrien and Brooks.

In South Carolina, the National Weather Service confirmed that two tornadoes struck over the weekend, injuring one woman who was trapped in a mobile home that was damaged near Blackville.

The weather service said a tornado touched down at about 3.45pm on Saturday in Barnwell County before moving into Bamberg County. The other occurred in Orangeburg County a few minutes later.

Weather experts say tornadoes can hit any time of year in the US South - including in the dead of winter. Even north Florida was under the weekend weather threat.

While the central US has a well-defined tornado season - the spring - the risk of tornadoes "never really goes to zero" for most of the year in the south-east, explained Patrick Marsh of the Storm Prediction Centre in Norman, Oklahoma.

He said 39 possible tornadoes were reported across the region from early on Saturday into Sunday evening – none immediately confirmed. Of that, 30 were reported in Georgia, four in Mississippi, and one each in Louisiana and South Carolina.

January tornado outbreaks are rare but not unprecedented, particularly in the South. Data from the Storm Prediction Centre shows that, over the past decade, the nation has seen an average of 38 tornadoes in January, ranging from a high of 84 in 2008 to just four in 2014.

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