Tropical storm Claudette leaves 12 dead in Alabama as it hits south-east

Tropical depression Claudette claimed 12 lives in Alabama as the storm swept across the south-eastern US, causing flash flooding and spurring tornadoes that destroyed dozens of homes.

Ten people, including nine children, were killed Saturday in a 15-vehicle crash about 35 miles (55km) south of Montgomery on Interstate 65, according to Butler county coroner Wayne Garlock.

He said the vehicles likely hydroplaned on wet roads, with eight children, ages four to 17, killed in a van belonging to a youth ranch operated by the Alabama Sheriffs Association for abused or neglected children. A man and a nine-month-old baby died in a separate vehicle. Multiple people were also injured.

Meanwhile, a 24-year-old man and a three-year-old boy were killed when a tree fell on their house just outside the Tuscaloosa city limits on Saturday, Capt Marty Sellers of the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit told The Tuscaloosa News.

Heavy rain led to high water late Saturday into early Sunday in the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa metropolitan areas in Alabama.

More than 20 people were rescued by boat due to flooding in Northport, Alabama, WVUA-TV reported. The Tuscaloosa county emergency management agency tweeted that local Red Cross volunteers were on hand to help those who were affected. Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service Capt Bryan Harrell told news outlets that a search was underway for a man who was possibly swept away by flooding.

The rapidly changing conditions came as Claudette was beginning to batter parts of Georgia and the Carolinas early Sunday.

The system was located about 85 miles (135km) west-south-west of Atlanta, with sustained winds of 30mph (45kph). It was moving east-north-east at 13mph (20kph), the National Hurricane Center said in advisory Sunday morning.

A tropical storm warning was in effect in North Carolina from the Little River Inlet to the town of Duck on the Outer Banks. A tropical storm watch was issued South Santee River, South Carolina, to the Little River Inlet, forecasters said.

Claudette was expected to cross into the Atlantic Ocean on Monday, and regain tropical storm strength over eastern North Carolina.

Claudette was declared organized enough to qualify as a named tropical storm early Saturday morning, well after the storm’s center of circulation had come ashore southwest of New Orleans.

Shortly after landfall, a suspected tornado spurred by the storm demolished or badly damaged at least 50 homes in a small town in Alabama, just north of the Florida border.

Sheriff Heath Jackson in Escambia county said a suspected tornado “pretty much leveled” a mobile home park, toppled trees onto houses and ripped the roof off of a high school gym. Most of the damage was done in or near the towns of Brewton and East Brewton, about 48 miles (77km) north of Pensacola, Florida.

There were no immediate reports of serious injuries or deaths.

Damage from the storm was also felt in north Florida, where winds in some cases reaching 85 mph (137kph) caused an 18-wheeler to flip on its side.

The storm also dumped flooding rains north of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana and along the Mississippi coast, inundating streets and, in some areas, pushing water into homes. Later, the storm was drenching the Florida Panhandle and, well inland, a broad expanse of Alabama.