TIME weather

Swarm of Tornadoes Tears Across the South

Constance Lambert embraces her dog after finding it alive when returning to her destroyed home in Tupelo, Miss., April 28, 2014.
Constance Lambert embraces her dog after finding it alive when returning to her destroyed home in Tupelo, Miss., April 28, 2014. Brad Vest—AP

Dozens of twisters across Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee pushed the death toll from this week's storms to at least 35 as the system moves east

Updated 4:58 p.m. ET

At least 16 people were killed Monday as deadly tornadoes ripped through sections of Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, bringing the death toll for the storm system that hit the Midwest earlier in the week to 35.

The dangerous weather was headed toward Georgia early Tuesday, after having flattened buildings in towns throughout the region, and Governor Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency.

“For about 30 seconds, it was unbelievable,” said Mississippi state Sen. Giles Ward, whose Louisville home was destroyed in the storm while he huddled in a bathroom with his wife, four kids and dog. “It’s about as awful as anything we’ve gone through.”

The storm system rumbling east across the country has slammed a huge swath of territory with dangerous weather, from Iowa south to Oklahoma and into Arkansas, which alone saw 15 deaths. An estimated 11 tornadoes hit the central U.S. Sunday and 25 ravaged the South Monday, according to a preliminary count from the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.

The storm reserved its most severe weather for Mississippi and Alabama. At least 45 injuries and six deaths were reported in Winston County, Miss., on Monday. One was a woman who died in the day care center she operated in Louisville, though it remained unclear if there were children in the center when the storm hit.

In Tupelo, Miss., every building in a two-block area was damaged when a tornado ravaged the town of about 35,000. Limestone County, Ala., suffered severe damage in the storm, which knocked out power to nearly 12,000 and killed two when a twister hit a trailer park in the small community of Coxey.

Power was out for tens of thousands of customers in the region and road crews worked to clear debris from streets Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

[AP]

 

TIME Courts

Federal Suit Filed to Overturn Georgia’s Gay Marriage Ban

Lambda Legal has filed a lawsuit in federal court to overturn the state's same-sex marriage ban, passed in a constitutional amendment in 2004, which also prohibits the recognition of unions performed in other states

A gay rights group in Georgia filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday seeking to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The suit, filed in Atlanta by Lambda Legal, seeks to vacate the voter-approved constitutional amendment passed in 2004 that bans same sex marriage in Georgia. The amendment, which bans same-sex marriage in Georgia and prohibits the state from recognizing such unions performed in other states, won overwhelming support on the ballot that year. The state Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality in 2006.

The Georgia lawsuit leaves only four states with bans on gay marriage that remain unchallenged, according to the Washington Post: Alaska, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. The suit is filed on behalf of seven individuals and seeks class action status, the Associated Press reports.

[AP]

 

 

TIME weather

At Least Two Dead as Severe Storms Deluge the Southeast

Rusty Murphy
Firefighter Rusty Murphy wades through flood waters in a mobile home park in Pelham, Ala., on Monday, April 7, 2014. Jay Reeves—AP

Heavy rains inundated the American Deep South on Monday, causing widespread flooding throughout the region that killed two people

Severe thunderstorms flooded large swaths of the American southeast for the second straight day and have caused at least two deaths, including that of a nine-year-old girl in Mississippi who was reportedly swept away by floodwaters on Sunday night.

Officials recovered the body of Patrauna Hudson on Monday after she was last seen playing outside near her parent’s home in Mississippi’s Yazoo City northwest of Jackson the previous evening, according to the Associated Press.

The second reported death occurred outside of Atlanta in the suburb of Lilburn when a car swerved off the road and crashed into a local creek on Monday. Local firefighters were only able to recover the driver’s body hours later.

In nearby Augusta, Ga., a practice round ahead of this weekend’s U.S. Masters golf tournament was called off on Monday due to the excessive rain, the first time in an more than a decade such a cancelation had occurred.

Flood warnings remained in place across much of the southeast on Tuesday morning, with more rain forecast to inundate the affected areas for the next 48 hours.

TIME Food & Drink

Paula Deen’s ‘Uncle Bubba’ Restaurant Shuts Its Doors

Paula Deen attends An Evening With Paula Deen at MotorCity Casino Hotel on April 25, 2013 in Detroit.
Paula Deen attends An Evening With Paula Deen at MotorCity Casino Hotel on April 25, 2013 in Detroit. Monica Morgan—WireImage/Getty Images

A year after an employee filed a suit against the restaurant alleging racial and sexual discrimination, Uncle Bubba's is shutting its doors

Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, a Georgia restaurant co-owned by Paula Deen and her brother Earl W. “Bubba” Hiers Jr., closed Thursday, according to its website.

The restaurant was at the center of a storm of controversy last year when an employee filed a lawsuit against Deen and her brother alleging racial and sexual discrimination. During a deposition, Deen admitted to having used a racial slur in the past, setting off a firestorm of bad publicity for the celebrity chef.

Though the suit was dismissed, the Food Network did not renew Deen’s contract, and she lost millions in endorsements from retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. Hiers also drew negative attention to the restaurant when he admitted during his deposition that he had a history of abusing cocaine and alcohol and watched pornography at work. He also admitted taking money from the restaurant in 2010.

Though Uncle Bubba’s website now reads, “Thank you for 10 great years. Uncle Bubba’s is now closed,” it seems many employees were not forewarned, according to Savannah Now. “I’ve worked there since I was 16. I woke up this a.m. to no job and no forewarning,” one employee posted on Uncle Bubba’s Facebook page (which has since been deleted).

Hiers decided to close the restaurant “in order to explore development options for the waterfront property on which the restaurant is located,” he announced in a statement.

Deen signed a deal with private investment firm Najafi Companies in February in hopes of staging a comeback. She announced that the firm would invest $75 million to $100 million to rebrand her image under a new umbrella company, Paula Deen Ventures, which will oversee her restaurants, cookbooks and product endorsements, the Associated Press reports. She has also announced plans for a new restaurant in Tennessee.

TIME Crime

Georgia Teen Spent $26K Mistakenly Deposited Into His Account

Steven Fields went on shopping spree after a bank teller mistakenly deposited $32,000 into his account, and now he's being charged with theft

A Georgia teen has been charged with theft after he spent thousands of dollars mistakenly deposited into his account by a bank teller.

Steven Fields, 18, turned himself into police Friday. A bank teller at First Citizen’s Bank deposited $32,000 into his account, instead of the account of another customer with the same name. When the other Steven Fields, 70, called two weeks later to ask about the cash, the bank realized its mistake. The bank gave the younger Fields until March 19 to return the money, and even offered him a payment plan.

But Fields had already spent $26,000 on a car, food, and clothing.

Stacey Sorrow, who is close to the younger Fields, said the teen had fun with his unexpected windfall. “He was excited, I would have been too,” she told a local NBC affiliate. “Look, if someone’s gonna go and put money in my bank, I would go and have fun too.”

But 70-year old Steven Fields doesn’t see it that way. “My daddy was a baptist preacher, we were raised honorable,” he said. “I would have said, ‘y’all have made a mistake, you put too much money in my checking account,’ and I wouldn’t have bothered it.” The bank has reimbursed the older Fields the full amount.

Sorrow says the teenager will hire an attorney to fight the charges, and that it’s the bank teller, not Fields, who is at fault. Fields claimed he thought the money was part of an inheritance.

[NBC]

TIME Crime

Georgia Principal Busted in Child Predator Sting

13 others nabbed in the operation

A Georgia elementary school principal was among 14 people arrested over the weekend for allegedly traveling to have sex with children they thought they’d met online.

John McGill, the principal of Mt. Carmel Elementary School, has been suspended pending the investigation and is being held at Dekalb County Jail, CNN reports. McGill was principal at two other elementary schools before taking the job at Mt. Carmel. The four-day sting, dubbed Operation Broken Heart, was “a four day proactive effort” involving 37 law enforcement agencies, authorities said. People arrested ranged in age from 21 to 64 and come from occupations including education, engineering, sales, software development, and one musician.

“The purpose of ‘Operation Broken Heart’ was to arrest persons who communicate with children on-line and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex,” the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a statement. “On-line child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose for having sex.”

The people arrested were charged under the Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Act of 1999. A layer for McGill told CNN he hadn’t spoken with his client yet and couldn’t say how McGill would plead.

TIME weather

Ice Storm Pummels East Coast

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Officers work to assist motorists as they attempt to drive up a hill that is covered in snow in Charlotte
Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Officers work to assist motorists as they attempt to drive up a hill that is covered in snow in Charlotte, North Carolina Feb. 12, 2014. Chris Keane / Reuters

A massive winter storm has the northeast I-95 corridor in its crosshairs after it left more than 300,000 powerless in Georgia and the Carolinas and forced some commuters stuck on slippery roads to abandon their vehicles

Updated at 4:53 p.m.

Across the southeastern U.S. Wednesday, hundreds of thousands lost power in their homes and businesses as a winter storm clobbered the region and prepared to head north along the eastern seaboard to drop inches of snow from Washington to Boston.

Throughout the region at least 10 deaths have been blamed on the dangerous winter weather. By 4 p.m., power outages had been reported at more than 300,000 homes and businesses in Georgia and the Carolinas. Roughly 131,000 customers were without power in Georgia alone, as repair crews made labored progress in restoring electricity, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. More freezing rain and up to four inches of snow are expected in the metro Atlanta area through Wednesday night.

Roads in the region are coated with ice, and officials are encouraging people to stay off the main highways. Georgia’s department of transportation commissioner Keith Golden said, “This is a very dangerous ice storm and we strongly encourage the public to stay off the roads unless it is an extreme emergency.”

And people seem to be taking him seriously. “Where you are right now is where you’re going to be tomorrow morning, there’s no doubt about it,” said Mark Arum on the local AM750 News/Talk WSB Traffic Center. In Georgia, the National Guard deployed 400 guardsmen and opened 35 armories to operate as warm shelters.

While Atlanta grappled with its second major winter system of the season, others along the eastern U.S. braced for the impact of the storm. In North Carolina, snow and freezing rain snarled traffic Wednesday afternoon on major thoroughfares, including on I-85, prompting some drivers to abandon their vehicles and head to shelter on foot. Road crews had relieved some of the gridlock by early evening but officials warned conditions were set to worsen as snow turned to freezing rain at nightfall. Washington prepared for 6 to 8 inches through Thursday morning. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked residents to avoid travel and advised agencies to prepare “for an impending nor’easter,” CNN reports.

MORE: ‘We’ve Doubled Our Capabilities’ Ahead of the Storm, Atlanta Mayor Tells TIME

Temperatures in the Georgia area hovered around 30 degrees, and are expected to remain below freezing through Thursday afternoon. The entire Atlanta region is under a winter storm or ice storm warning until then. All local bus service is suspended, and trains are running on a reduced schedule. 2,200 flights have been cancelled out of Atlanta’s airport, leaving only 300 flights operating out of the world’s busiest airport Wednesday. Nationwide, 3,276 flights had been canceled Wednesday as of 4:15 p.m. The Georgia Day Parade, an annual event presented by the Georgia Historical Society to celebrate the state’s colonial founding in 1733, was scheduled for Wednesday but was postponed due to the weather.

TIME weather

Snow Woes: Ice Freezes South, Stranding Thousands

Several inches of snow crippled cities across the Deep South, where thousands of motorists were stranded overnight and several hundred injured in a region unaccustomed to icy weather

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