MONTGOMERY, Ala. —A severe weather system that trudged across the Southeast on Wednesday tore roofs off buildings, overturned cars and caused a house fire that killed a woman.
Two apparent tornadoes damaged buildings and caused minor injuries near Mobile in southwest Alabama, hours after several tornadoes were reported to the west in Louisiana. A woman died in a house fire in Mississippi that authorities believe was caused by lightning.
Alabama and Louisiana's governors declared states of emergency, which allows them to request federal help in responding to the storms.
Far to the north, New Jersey's governor also made an emergency declaration for parts of the state to allow the National Guard and state police to prepare for expected flooding from the storm system. The National Weather service issued a flood warning in several counties where heavy rain was expected today.
Alabama authorities said only minor injuries were reported despite the destruction there.
"It's very fortunate judging from the extent of some of the damage," said John Kilcullen, operations director for the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency.
Ambulances, police cars and fire trucks with flashing lights descended on the Theodore area near Mobile after the storm struck about 8:45 a.m. CST, overturning vehicles, nearly demolishing a gas station, knocking down power lines and causing ammonia and natural gas leaks.
Evelyn Thibeault said she saw a twister go by her business, Theodore Mail Ship and More.
"My front door flew open and a plant flew across the floor. Everything just turned white. BP is just gone. It's horrible," said Thibeault, breathing hard during a telephone interview. "It hit a hardware store, a little country music place they have. We're all still nervous and shook up."