2 dead as storms fray nerves in hurricane-tossed Gulf Coast

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — At least two people were dead after powerful storms blew through the Gulf Coast region Thursday, jangling the nerves of people whose lives were ripped apart by Hurricane Michael less than a month ago.

Storms covered a wide area of the country reaching from beaches to the Great Lakes, but howling wind and driving rain threw a particular scare into the Florida Panhandle, which is still reeling from Michael.

Disaster centers helping with the hurricane recovery closed ahead of the storms, and authorities worried that winds gusting up to 60 mph (97 kph) could topple trees or limbs weakened by the Category 4 hurricane. Hundreds of homes protected only by flimsy tarps were particularly vulnerable.

No serious problems were reported, at least initially, and Mayor Margo Anderson of hard-hit Lynn Haven, Florida, said residents have had enough bad weather for a while.

"I think people are not wanting to see more wind and rain," she said. "It puts everyone on edge. It's frightening."

20 PHOTOS
Volunteers rush to aid survivors after Hurricane Michael
See Gallery
Volunteers rush to aid survivors after Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael survivor Yvette Beasley stands in her front yard during a wellbeing check by a 50 Star Search and Rescue team in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 17, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

A 50 Star Search and Rescue team passes a sign reading "Slow Watch for Children," knocked over by Hurricane Michael, along the swollen Chipola River in Florida, U.S., October 18, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Jessica Melvin hugs her step-daughter Angelena Sawyer (R) while waiting for an ambulance arranged by a 50 Star Search and Rescue team for Sawyer's acute untreated appendicitis following Hurricane Michael in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 17, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

50 Star Search and Rescue team leader Zach Smith treats Cody Hatcher's foot wound at a Hurricane Michael relief center at Fountain's Victory Tabernacle church in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 17, 2018.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

A search and rescue team from 50 Star Search and Rescue follows ambulances after Hurricane Michael in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 18, 2018.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

50 Star Search and Rescue team member John Basehore brings Angelena Sawyer (C) and Jacob Sibilia (R) home after Sawyer was taken to the hospital for untreated acute appendicitis, found during a wellbeing check by a 50 Star Search and Rescue team earlier in the day, following Hurricane Michael in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 17, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

50 Star Search and Rescue team members Robert Pepper (L) and John Basehore study a map of the search area following Hurricane Michael in Youngstown, Florida, U.S., October 17, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

50 Star Search and Rescue team leader Zach Smith (R) checks the damage from Hurricane Michael to the home of Glenda Kronfol in Youngstown, Florida, U.S., October 18, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Angelena Sawyer (C) and Jacob Sibilia (L) look at their three-month-old daughter Seraphina as 50 Star Search and Rescue team leader Zach Smith (R) checks on the medical condition of Sawyer, who required an ambulance to treat acute appendicitis, following Hurricane Michael in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 17, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

A search and rescue team from 50 Star Search and Rescue works amid debris from Hurricane Michael in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 18, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Denny Chevillot greets a search and rescue team from 50 Star Search and Rescue following Hurricane Michael along the Chipola River in Florida, U.S., October 18, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

50 Star Search and Rescue team member John Basehore (C kneeling) checks the medical condition of Angelena Sawyer (L) as Jacob Sibilia and her step-mother Jessica Melvin (R) look on, following Hurricane Michael in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 17, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Angelena Sawyer, who has untreated acute appendicitis, waits for medics to arrive during a wellbeing check by a 50 Star Search and Rescue team following Hurricane Michael in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 17, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

The Lama family hold hot meals prepared by Operation BBQ Relief and delivered by a 50 Star Search and Rescue team following Hurricane Michael in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 17, 2018.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

A 50 Star Search and Rescue team passes a no trespassing sign while working on the swollen Chipola River following Hurricane Michael in Florida, U.S., October 18, 2018.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

50 Star Search and Rescue team member Robert Pepper clears debris from the yard of Yvette Beasley after Hurricane Michael in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 17, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Medics take Angelena Sawyer to the ambulance for her untreated acute appendicitis during a wellbeing check by a 50 Star Search and Rescue team following Hurricane Michael in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 17, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

50 Star Search and Rescue team member Zach Smith cleans and bandages a foot wound on Jessica Melvin following Hurricane Michael at her home in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 17, 2018.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

50 Star Search and Rescue team members John Basehore (L) and Zach Smith study a map of their search area following Hurricane Michael in Panama City Beach, Florida, U.S., October 17, 2018.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

50 Star Search and Rescue team members and volunteers unload a pallet of MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) at a relief center at Fountain's Victory Tabernacle church in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 18, 2018.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The Storm Prediction Center reported downed trees and utility lines from eastern Texas to northwest Alabama. The Southeastern storms left nearly 110,000 homes and businesses without electricity at the height, and both weather-related deaths occurred in wrecks.

In Texas, the Waller County Sheriff's Office posted on Facebook that Deputy Loren Vasquez, 23, had been on solo patrol for only three nights when her patrol car ran into water on a road and flipped late Wednesday while answering a rescue call.

Other deputies tried to free her from the overturned vehicle but couldn't.

"Words will never express what our office is going thru and we can only ask for your prayers," Sheriff R. Glenn Smith said in a statement posted on the site.

In Mississippi, the Department of Public Safety said Alcorn State University student Jayla A. Gray, 19, of Jackson died early Thursday when the car in which she was a passenger struck a tree that had fallen across a highway near the town of Port Gibson, which is about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest of the capital of Jackson.

The driver and another passenger escaped injury, the agency said in a statement. Public Safety spokesman Kervin Stewart said the three were returning to campus after a Halloween party and early-morning meal; Gray was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the wreck.

Troopers said weather was a factor in the wreck, which happened just minutes after a storm toppled trees near Kevin Bryant's mobile home a few miles away in Port Gibson. Daybreak revealed a shattered community littered with broken trees and pieces of buildings, said Bryant.

"It tore up trees and old businesses that had been sitting awhile. Everybody is without power," he said. "It definitely woke you up. That wind was howling."

Bryant wasn't hurt, but four people had to be rescued in Louisiana's Tangipahoa Parish when four mobile homes were destroyed by falling trees, and 10 homes near Covington were damaged. Two schools in Beauregard Parish were closed due to damage, and a home was also hit.

High winds downed power lines and flipped trampolines in east Texas before the storms entered the Southeast. A possible tornado blew out windows at a Walmart store in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and damaged cars outside, but no one was hurt, news outlets reported.

Storms toppled tents being set up for an oyster cook-off planned for this weekend in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and powerful gusts stripped leaves from trees near Birmingham.

Multiple school systems in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi canceled or delayed classes because of the weather threat.

___

AP writers Jack Jones in Columbia, South Carolina; David Warren in Dallas; and Rebecca Santana in New Orleans contributed to this report.

___

This story has corrected the spelling of Alcorn State University.

Read Full Story