Families die together on terrifying night of twisters

Updated, Thurs 10 AM: The Stephens relatives tend to stick together. Several of them live on the same road in the south-central Kentucky farming community of Holland, according to Vonda McPeak, who said her husband is a distant Stephens cousin.

That's why the Stephens name showed up so many times on the list of dead and injured from the ferocious storms that struck the region late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

Linda Stephens, 53, and her 2-year-old grandson, Hunter, were killed, and seven other people with that surname -- including an infant and a 1-year-old -- were hurt, according to McPeak and state police.

At another mobile home just a mile or so away, Phyllis "Joy" Dow, 58, and her husband Michael Dow, 50, also were killed, making four deaths in Allen County, state police said.

The county neighbors Macon County and Sumner County, Tennessee, which together saw at least 20 storm deaths that night.

In Muhlenberg County in western Kentucky, Bobby Joe Crick, 71, and his 62-year-old wife, Diane Crick, 62, died with their 40-year-old daughter, Gilda Ann Crick, when the storms hit their mobile home park near Greenville, said Ted Tucker, co-owner of Tucker Funeral Home in Central City.

In Hartsville, Tennessee, Nova and Ray Story weathered the storm in their home and went out to look for Ray Story's brother, Bill Clark, who lived in a mobile home. What was left of the trailer had been flipped upside down, but the 70-year-old was alive when they pulled him from the wreckage.

They put him in their pickup and drove to a hospital, with neighbors pulling debris from the road in front of them.

Clark died in the back of the truck.

"He knew he was going to die when we put him in the pickup truck," Ray Story said.

"He never had a chance," Nova Story said. "I looked him right in the eye and he died right there in front of me."

In the Alabama town of Aldridge Grove, investigators probably won't ever know whether Greg Coleman, 40, his wife, Becky Coleman, 49, and their 19-year-old son, Garreck, knew what hit their north Alabama home around 3 a.m. Wednesday.

A tornado siren sounded right around then, but it was 10 miles away in Moulton, said Brenda Morgan, deputy emergency management director in Lawrence County. Aldridge Grove lacks such a warning system, and the Colemans were killed when their home was hit, according to county coroner Micah Coffee.

Not long after that, sirens sounded at least three times some 80 miles to the east in the town of Pisgah, Jackson County emergency management director Victor Manning said. But 60-year-old Linda Tinker apparently didn't hear them or couldn't find shelter, and was killed, county coroner John David Jordan said.

In Shirley, Arkansas, letter carrier Tonya Selken and her family picked out the low spot where they put the trailer they called home specifically because they believed it was safe from tornadoes.

They'd seen several skip past over the years, and she was even home one day when one went overhead without touching it, said her father, Jerry Simpkins.

Late Tuesday, though, a twister found her. Selken, 36, was among four people killed when storms moved through Van Buren County, and her husband and 14-year-old daughter were seriously injured, relatives said.

Updated, Wed 3 PM: The National Weather Service has posted tornado watches for parts of southern Alabama, the Florida Panhandle and western Georgia, but the storm system that spawned a deadly cluster of tornadoes in five Southern states overnight appears to be weakening as it moves eastward.

Rescue crews, some with the help of the National Guard, have been going door-to-door looking for victims in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama. At least 50 people have been reported dead.

Residents have been trying to salvage what they can from homes reduced to piles of debris.

In Washington, President Bush said he called the governors of the five states to assure them the administration was ready to help and to deal with any emergency requests. He says those affected should "know the American people are standing with them."

The loss of life was most severe in Tennessee, where 26 people were killed. Emergency officials say 13 were killed in Arkansas, seven in Kentucky and four in Alabama.

Previously: The destruction from a storm that spawned swarms of tornadoes is becoming more apparent Wednesday morning as officials in Alabama report three more people were killed. That brings the death toll across the South to 47. Hundreds more are injured.

Crews are doing door-to-door searches to see if there are any more victims.

The twisters tore the roof from a shopping mall, battered mobile homes and laid waste to warehouses in their five-state rampage.

The coroner in Arkansas says two adults and their 11-year-old child were killed when their home "took a direct hit" from the storm. Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe plans to tour the town where they lived.

In Memphis, Tennessee, high winds collapsed the roof of a Sears store at a mall. In Mississippi, the Desoto County Sheriff's Department says a twister shredded warehouses in an industrial park.

Emergency officials say the victims include 24 people in Tennessee, 13 in Arkansas and seven in Kentucky, in addition to the three in Alabama.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.