Severe storms claim 19 lives in South US

Monday, January 23, 2017 - 10:15

A severe storm that brought destructive tornadoes with it claimed the lives of at least 19 people over the weekend as it moved south from Georgia and Mississippi into the Florida Panhandle.

There had been reports of 50 tornadoes across the South since Thursday as four separate waves of severe weather wrought havoc, said Frank Giannasca, a senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel. Giannasca added that there would not be complete confirmation as to the actual number of tornadoes until the National Weather Service was able to assess damage on scene.

At least 15 people were killed in Georgia during the severe weather on Saturday and Sunday. An additional four died in southern Mississippi Saturday when a tornado smashed buildings in the Hattiesburg area.

On Monday, the Forrest County Medical Examiner's Office identified the dead in Mississippi as: Earnest Perkins, 58; Cleveland Madison, 20; David Wayne McCoy, 47; and Simona Cox, 72. All four died as a result of the tornado and had no relation to each other.

In Georgia, Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler told NBC News Monday morning that at least four people died there due to the severe weather over the weekend — and he said there was a "great possibility" the death toll would continue to rise.

"Search and rescue teams are going from trailer to trailer," he said. "They're so mangled up and destroyed that we've got to go through each one."

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal extended the state's state of emergency from seven counties to 16 on Monday afternoon and extended the executive order to run through midnight on January 30th.