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7 killed in Ala. storms, bringing US toll to 16

Combined with earlier reported fatalities in Arkansas and Oklahoma, the confirmed death toll had risen to 16 by early Saturday — the nation's deadliest storm of the season.

By Associated Press / April 16, 2011

Stephen Eldridge throws rubble on a pile as he helps clean up the remains of two relatives' homes, in Tushka, Okla., Friday, April 15, 2011. The homes crashed together during Thursday night's tornadoes.

Sue Ogrocki/AP

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Boone’s Chapel, Ala.

Vicious storms and howling winds smacked the Deep South, killing at least seven people in Alabama including three family members whose homes were tossed into nearby woods.

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Combined with earlier reported fatalities in Arkansas and Oklahoma, the confirmed death toll had risen to 16 by early Saturday — the nation's deadliest storm of the season.

Henley Hollon said Saturday that his 65-year-old brother, Willard Hollon, lived across the street from him in the Boone's Chapel community about 25 miles from Montgomery. Henley Hollon said Willard Hollon and Willard's two adult children, Steve and Cheryl, were killed when the storms roared through.
Henley Hollon said he had been watching the weather forecast on television — and thought the worst was over when the winds started to pick up.

Gallery: Tornadoes

"It got up real fast. The lights went out," he said. "We had to feel our way into the hall. It lasted less than a minute."

He then went outside to check on the limbs down in his yard and walked across the road to check on his brother.

"When I shined the light out there I could see it was all gone," Henley Hollon said. Two mobile homes had been ripped from their foundations, and all that remained Saturday morning were wooden steps and flowerbeds.

"The trailer was anchored down and the anchors are gone," said Autauga County Chief Deputy Sheriff Joe Sedinger. "But the steps are still there and the blooms are still on the flowers."

Seven people were hurt in the storm, including a firefighter injured during the emergency response, Sedinger said.

Another three deaths were reported early Saturday in Washington County in southern Alabama, said Yasamie Richardson, spokeswoman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.

Don Faulkner, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mobile, estimated mobile homes make up around 40 percent of the houses in the area of Washington County where the storm hit. Richardson said she didn't immediately have details on the people killed there or where they were living.

The system had already destroyed or damaged dozens of homes, businesses and churches Friday afternoon in Mississippi, where crews worked to clear roads, find shelter for displaced families and restore power.