HOUSTON – Severe storms sweeping across southern portions of the U.S. and up into the Midwest were blamed Saturday in the deaths of at least 11 people, including two first responders, as high winds, tornadoes and unrelenting rain battered large swaths of the country.
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 a trailer home was lifted off its foundation and carried several hundred feet.
A man drowned in Oklahoma and the storms even touched the Midwest with at least one death on an icy highway in Iowa.
Hundreds of thousands of people were left without power from Texas to Ohio, parts of highways were closed in Oklahoma and Arkansas due to flooding and hundreds of flights were canceled at Chicago’s international airports.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a state of emergency to assist crews working to restore power around the state.
Tragedy in Texas:2 first responders killed at icy wreck scene in Lubbock
Two first responders were killed and another was critically injured in Lubbock, Texas, Saturday morning after they were hit by a vehicle while working 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, was hospitalized in critical condition.
Lubbock Police Chief Floyd Mitchell called it an “extremely tragic day” for the city.
Another person had died in Texas 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 by 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 Saturday. Randall Hyatt, 58, of Wardville, was overwhelmed by rushing water while getting out of his stalled truck.
The Iowa State Patrol said roads were caked with ice early Saturday when a semitrailer on Interstate 80 overturned, killing a passenger in the truck east of Iowa City .
In Alabama, three people were confirmed killed 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.”