Severe storms sweeping across southern portions of the US have been blamed for the deaths of at least 11 people as high winds, tornadoes and unrelenting rain battered the area.
Storm-related fatalities were reported in Texas due to icy weather, in Alabama from a deadly tornado and in Louisiana, where winds were so strong that they lifted a mobile home off its foundation and carried it several hundred feet.
A man also drowned in Oklahoma.
Hundreds of thousands of people were left without power from Texas to Michigan, parts of motorways were closed in Oklahoma and Arkansas due to flooding and hundreds of flights were cancelled at Chicago’s international airports.
Two first responders were killed and another was critically injured in Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday morning after they were hit by a vehicle while working at the scene of a traffic accident in icy conditions, officials said.
Police Officer Nicholas Reyna, 27, who had been with the department for one year, died at the scene. Firefighter Lt David Hill, 39, was taken to a local hospital where he later died. Firefighter Matthew Dawson, 30, is in hospital in a critical condition.
Lubbock Police Chief Floyd Mitchell called it an “extremely tragic day” for the city.
Another person died in Texas on Friday night when a car flipped into a creek in Dallas as severe thunderstorms passed through.
Lightning from Friday’s stormy weather was suspected of causing fires that burned two houses but caused no injuries in the North Texas cities of Burleson and Mansfield.
A man drowned near Kiowa, Oklahoma, after he was swept away in floodwaters, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said on Saturday. Randall Hyatt, 58, of Wardville, was overwhelmed by rushing water while getting out of his stalled truck.
In Alabama, three people were confirmed dead near Carrollton in Pickens County, the National Weather Service in Birmingham said on Twitter.
The Alabama Emergency Management Agency said the deaths were caused by an “embedded tornado within a long line of intense thunderstorms”.
Earlier on Saturday, in north-western Louisiana, firefighters found the bodies of an elderly couple near their demolished mobile home in Benton, the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office said via Facebook.
The winds were so strong the home of the couple, who were the in-laws of a parish deputy, was moved 200 feet from its foundation.
The National Weather Service in Shreveport said a tornado with winds of around 135 mph had touched down in Bossier Parish
Also in Louisiana, Raymond Holden, 75, was killed in his bed when a tree fell on his home in Oil City, crushing him, according to the Caddo Parish Coroner’s Office.
More than 139,000 people were without power in Alabama, according to Alabama Power.
According to PowerOutage.us, Mississippi had more than 39,000 power outages on Saturday afternoon. About 20,000 customers were without power in Louisiana. Outages were reported from Texas to Michigan.