MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A possible tornado flattened a downtown store before dawn and ripped the front off a metal building across Mobile Bay on Friday, and forecasters said more storms could hit an area stretching from south Alabama to coastal Virginia.
Violent winds ripped open a Family Dollar store in a heavily populated neighborhood in Mobile and damaged an adjacent grocery store, Greer's CashSaver, before dawn, around the time tornado warnings covered the area, news outlets reported.
The grocery wasn't open when the storm hit and workers managed to get the damage cleaned up and open just a few hours later than normal, said manager Marcus Canfield.
“Just a few ceiling tiles and a few front windows were knocked out,” he said. “It’s not too bad. It could have been a lot worse.”
Another building was badly damaged to the east across the bay in Daphne, where trees were splintered. No serious injuries were reported in Alabama, and the Storm Prediction Center said a tornado may have caused the damage in Mobile.
Mobile was near the southwestern end of a front stretching to the Virginia coast where forecasters said severe thunderstorms were possible. Some 24 million people live in the region, which includes Atlanta; Raleigh and Charlotte in North Carolina; and Norfolk, Virginia.
Earlier storms spawned several tornadoes that ripped through Texas and Oklahoma, causing damage to a school, a marijuana farm and other structures.
There were no reports of serious injuries following the Wednesday night tornadoes, but the system caused flooding in parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas, and more stormy weather took place Thursday.
Significant damage was reported in the Oklahoma city of Seminole, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of Oklahoma City, where Gov. Kevin Stitt said damage assessments were underway after he toured the area Thursday.
“(We're) getting all the resources and supplies that the city wants and needs," including generators, Stitt said. “Thank the Lord that nobody was hurt."
The National Weather Service said it found damage in Seminole from an EF2 tornado, which has winds speeds of up to 135 mph (217 kph).
The storms on Wednesday and Thursday were the latest in several rounds of severe weather in the central United States. Last week, a tornado damaged more than 1,000 buildings in the Wichita suburb of Andover, Kansas. Three University of Oklahoma meteorology students died in a car crash while returning from storm chasing.
After the threat to the Southeast passes, more storms will continue over the weekend in the central Plains and Midwest, the weather service said.