Recovery begins after storms that kill 12 in Midwest, South

(AP/Gray) - Officials spent Sunday assessing damage and working to restore power to tens of thousands after storms ravaged parts of the Midwest, South and Northeast, causing 12 deaths.

The National Weather Service says it was a tornado packing winds of at least 134 mph (215 kph) that hit Alabama’s Pickens County on Saturday, killing three.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey praised the state’s first responders Sunday in a statement expressing grief over the loss of life.

A tornado with 135 mph winds hit northwest Louisiana, where authorities say three people died, including a man crushed to death in his bed when a tree fell on his home.

Officials say a police officer and a firefighter in Lubbock, Texas, have been killed Saturday and another is critically injured after being hit by a vehicle while working the scene of a traffic accident.

The officer and firefighter who died have been identified as 27-year-old Nicholas Reyna with the Lubbock Police Departement and 39-year-old fire Lt. and Paramedic Eric Hill, KCBD reported.

In Nacogdoches County, Texas, authorities said one person died when a tree fell on their home, KTRE reported. Another person in the home escaped with only minor injuries.

A couple in Kuykendahl, Texas, evacuated their home with their 10-month-old daughter when a neighbor’s tree crushed their roof late Friday, KTRK reported. The tree damaged their kitchen, causing a gas leak, which was later stemmed by emergency crews.

Tornadoes have destroyed homes in Arkansas and Missouri and also caused damage in Oklahoma amid severe storms.

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 storms also unleashed downpours that caused widespread flash flooding.

Firefighters rescued a woman Saturday morning after her car washed away near the James River east of Springfield, Mo., KYTV reported. Emergency personnel also performed other high-water rescues in the area.

At least one death in eastern Iowa has been blamed on the powerful winter storm.

Television station KCCI reported that a westbound semitrailer on Interstate 80 crashed just after midnight Saturday in Cedar County, east of Iowa City.

The Iowa State Patrol says roads were completely covered in ice when the semitrailer left the road and overturned, killing a passenger in the truck.

The victim’s name was not immediately released.

Earlier Friday afternoon, a tornado destroyed two homes near Fair Play, Missouri. Tornado watches Friday night covered parts of eastern Texas, northwestern Louisiana, southern Missouri and much of Arkansas.

Sections of flooded highways were closed in Oklahoma and Arkansas and hundreds of flights were canceled at Chicago’s airports.

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