Washington, April 17 (IANS/EFE) Powerful storms moving toward the northern part of the US East Coast have left 17 dead and have caused widespread damage.
A continuing threat of storms and tornadoes is expected in the southeastern and midwestern sections of the US Saturday as the storm system moves to the northeast.
Georgia authorities issued a tornado watch Saturday before dawn after storms raging through the state toppled trees and electricity pylons. Rain, hail and gusts of wind of up to 112 km per hour are forecast.
The storm system that started in the central part of the country had by Friday reached the southeastern states: northern Mississippi and Alabama and central Tennessee, according to the National Weather Service.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency after receiving information that several tornadoes had touched down in at least six counties, CNN said.
In Sumpter and Marengo Counties, several people were injured and the storms left one person dead.
Police reported another three deaths in Autauga County when trees blown down by the strong winds crashed onto mobile homes.
The spokeswoman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Yasamie August, said that another three people were killed in Washington County.
The National Weather Service has issued a tornado emergency in Alabama for the cities of Geiger, Panola, New West Green and Pleasant Ridge.
According to CNN, authorities were concerned Friday about an auto race to be held at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, where a tornado watch was in force and where 30,000 people were camped in tents and trailers to watch the races over the weekend.
By Saturday, however, the bad weather had backed off and car-racing fans were allowed into the Superspeedway.
The storm has caused damages near the town of Yarbo, Alabama, and also in Mississippi, where a tornado emergency was declared in 14 counties, including Greene County where one person was killed and another six were injured.
The city of Clinton, Mississippi, suffered damages from a tornado touchdown, which damaged at least 20 vehicles, though according to Mayor Rosemary Aultman, no one was hurt.
Authorities had already reported the death of two people in Oklahoma and seven in Arkansas.
Five of those killed in Arkansas, including two children, died when trees were blown down on their homes by strong winds.
Firefighters found a woman, 34, in bed with her 7-year-old son, whom she was apparently trying to protect from the storm. Both were crushed by a giant oak.