ATLANTA (AP) — Claudette regained tropical storm status yesterday morning as it neared the coast of the Carolinas less than two days after 13 people died — including eight children in a multi-vehicle crash — due to the effects of the storm in Alabama.
The children who died on Saturday were in a van for a youth home for abused or neglected children.
The vehicle erupted in flames in the wreck along a wet Interstate 65 about 55 kilometres south of Montgomery. Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock said vehicles likely hydroplaned.
The crash also claimed the lives of two other people who were in a separate vehicle. Garlock identified them as 29-year-old Cody Fox and his nine-month-old daughter, Ariana, both of Marion County, Tennessee.
Multiple people were also injured. Additionally, a 24-year-old man and a three-year-old boy were also killed on Saturday when a tree fell on their house just outside the Tuscaloosa city limits, said Captain Jack Kennedy of the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit.
Makayla Ross, a 23-year-old Fort Payne woman, died on Saturday after her car ran off the road into a swollen creek, DeKalb County Deputy Coroner Chris Thacker told WHNT-TV. A search was also underway for one man believed to have fallen into the water during flash flooding in Birmingham, WBRC-TV reported. Crews were using boats to search Pebble Creek.
Yesterday morning, Claudette had maximum sustained winds of 65 kilometres-per-hour (kph) the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. The storm was located 100 kilometres east-southeast of Raleigh, North Carolina, and moving east-northeast at 41 kph forecasters said.
The storm moved into the Atlantic Ocean later in the morning, then travel near or south of Nova Scotia today.
A tropical storm warning was in effect from Cape Fear, North Carolina, to the town of Duck on the Outer Banks.
“An isolated tornado is possible early this morning over parts of the Outer Banks,” said specialist with the National Hurricane Center Brad Reinhart.
“By afternoon, we expect the system to be well offshore.”
About three to five centimetres of rain was expected for the Carolinas before Claudette moved out to sea.
The van in Saturday’s crash was carrying children ages four to 17 who belonged to the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, a youth home operated by the Alabama
The youth ranch’s CEO Michael Smith said the van was heading back to the ranch near Camp Hill, northeast of Montgomery, after a week at the beach in Gulf Shores. Candice Gulley, the ranch director, was the van’s only survivor – pulled from the flames by a bystander.
“Words cannot explain what I saw,” Smith said of the accident site, which he visited on Saturday. He had returned from Gulf Shores in a separate van and did not see the crash when it happened.
Gulley remained hospitalised on Sunday in Montgomery in serious but stable condition.
Two of the dead in the van were Gulley’s children, ages four and 16. Four others were ranch residents and two were guests, Smith said.
Garlock, the coroner, said the location of the wreck is “notorious” for hydroplaning, as the northbound highway curves down a hill to a small creek.
Traffic on that stretch of I-65 is usually filled with vacationers driving to and from Gulf of Mexico beaches on summer weekends. The National Transportation Safety Board tweeted that it sent 10 investigators to the area on Sunday to investigate the crash.
Meanwhile, it seemed to be business as usual along North Carolina’s Outer Banks last Sunday ahead of Claudette’s arrival.
At Stack ‘em High in Kill Devil Hills, a restaurant that specialises in pancakes, co-owner Dawn Kiousis said on Sunday morning restaurant service was busy.
“You keep your eye on the weather and you prepare as much stuff in advance as you can,” she said. “Just know she’s gonna win. Mother Nature is going to do what she’s going to do, so you just prepare.”