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Suspected tornadoes, storms sweep South; at least 4 dead

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:48 PM EST, Wed November 16, 2011
Severe weather and several unconfirmed tornadoes moved through parts of the Pine Belt early Wednesday morning.
Severe weather and several unconfirmed tornadoes moved through parts of the Pine Belt early Wednesday morning.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Three people are killed in South Carolina
  • NEW: Authorities "not sure if the number is going to rise"
  • One person is killed in Georgia, authorities say, and four are injured in Mississippi
  • Tornadoes are suspected in at least two Louisiana parishes

(CNN) -- Severe weather -- including suspected tornadoes -- swept through the South on Wednesday, killing at least four people and injuring others, officials said.

Three people were killed in York County, South Carolina, when a storm swept through a rural area shortly after 6 p.m., according to the York County sheriff's office. Half a dozen homes were destroyed or extensively damaged and five people were taken to hospitals, said Lt. Mike Baker of the sheriff's office.

Searchers "expect to be (at the scene) through the night and through the morning (Thursday). This is considered a search-and-rescue operation at this time," Baker told CNN Wednesday night.

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Sabrina Gast of the York County coroner's office said authorities were "not sure if the number (of deaths) is going to rise, because we don't know if people were home or not."

Another fatality occurred in Forsyth County, Georgia, when a tree fell on a car, the fire department said.

Four people were injured in Mississippi, but their injuries were not critical, according to National Weather Service reports.

A possible tornado caused "major damage" to a mobile home park near Opelika, Alabama, with homes and vehicles demolished, the weather service said, citing an emergency manager in Lee County. It was not immediately known if anyone was injured.

In North Carolina, an apparent tornado in Davidson County south of Winston-Salem damaged "multiple structures," but there were no reports of injuries, according to state emergency management spokeswoman Julia Jarema.

Downed trees, damaged homes and buildings, and power outages were reported across north, central and west Alabama and Georgia, including in metro Atlanta, from high winds and possible twisters.

Georgia Power said it had 1,975 customers without power -- 594 in metro Atlanta, 1,375 in the Manchester area, and scattered outages elsewhere.

A high school in Harris County, Georgia, was also reported damaged.

Eastern Alabama's Lee County received "significant reports of damage," said Rita Smith, a public information officer with Lee County Emergency Management. "We've got reports of damage at an apartment complex, structures at a lake, mobile homes and trees down," she said.

In Auburn, Alabama, Jim Goldberg told CNN, he and his wife were working at home when warning sirens went off, rain came down so hard it was difficult to see and wind pushed their patio furniture into a neighbor's yard.

"We got into our pantry as quickly as possible at that point," he said. "You could tell something bad was happening out there."

At least half a dozen trees fell on his property and a nearby home's roof was damaged, he said.

In the west Alabama city of Demopolis, damage was reported to roofs downtown, and a boat was overturned at a dealership, the National Weather Service reported. In the capital city of Montgomery, trees were reported down in a neighborhood from a possible tornado.

Earlier in the day, a suspected tornado in Louisiana's Tangipahoa Parish moved a home with four people inside off its foundation, but no one was hurt, according to the National Weather Service. A possible tornado also touched down near Kentwood, Louisiana, according to parish emergency management authorities.

In Terrebonne Parish, near Houma, damage was reported from a suspected tornado at the Houma-Terrebonne Airport, the National Weather Service said. Shingles were blown off a home, and a shed was blown out of a residential yard and onto the grounds of a nearby school. Windows at the school were blown out, the weather service said. A survey of damage is planned for Wednesday.

Sharon Henry, principal of Village East Middle School, said five windows at the school were blown out and debris littered the school yard. No one was injured, she said, as the school day had not begun. The windows were being repaired and school was in session Wednesday, she said.

Homes were also reported damaged near Jones, Mississippi, about 30 miles northeast of Hattiesburg, the National Weather Service said. In the town of Laurel, Mississippi, three homes were reported damaged with people trapped inside, according to the weather service. Four people with noncritical injuries were taken to a hospital. Power outages were reported in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, the weather service said.

The storms were associated with a cold front moving Wednesday across the Southeast. The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for Alabama and portions of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee until 7 p.m. ET. A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms and the development of tornadoes.

CNN's Jason Hanna, Jacqui Jeras and Melanie Whitley and CNN Radio's Matt Cherry contributed to this report.

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