A rash of severe weather that killed 24 people and shredded houses in the South is now pummeling states father north.
About 15 million people along the East Coast were under a tornado watch Monday, the National Weather Service said.
“Damaging winds of up to 70 mph and a few tornadoes are possible,” CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.
Places at risk include Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and central and eastern Pennsylvania.
The same storm system killed at least 24 people and destroyed hundreds of structures in several southern states.
In Mississippi, at least 11 people were killed, the state’s Department of Emergency Management said.
In South Carolina, six people in Hampton County were killed Monday morning, the county’s emergency management office said.
In Georgia, six people were killed — including five people in Murray County and one man in Cartersville, local officials said.
At least one house in Upson County, Georgia, was picked up and moved by the storm, CNN affiliate WSB reported Monday.
And in Arkansas, one person was killed after a tree fell on a home in Jefferson County, county emergency management director Karen Blevins said.
From Texas to South Carolina, reports of at least 40 tornadoes spanned more than 1,200 miles, the National Weather Service said Monday.
Now states already grappling with the coronavirus pandemic are trying to recover from this outbreak of storms.
Emergency officials told residents that sheltering from the storms takes priority over the social distancing guidelines in place to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency emphasized that people should have a safe place to go — and if that’s a public shelter, to continue practicing social distancing.
“If you go to a public shelter please wear a mask, bandana, or scarf around your nose and mouth,” MEMA tweeted.
New Yorkers have 2 emergencies to worry about
Strong winds and heavy rain are expected to reach New York, the state hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told residents the best protection from the weather is to continue to practice social distancing.
“We have strong winds and heavy rain coming our way on Monday, New York City, so it’s really simple: if you do not need to be outside tomorrow then STAY HOME,” de Blasio tweeted.
State emergency responders are preparing to help local partners as they get ready for possible widespread power outages, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.
“New Yorkers across the state are heeding our guidance to stay home during the Covid-19 pandemic, but this storm makes that call all the more urgent,” Cuomo said.
How the storms unfolded
The storm system first pummeled Texas with severe weather Saturday and headed east to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency due to “devastating damage.”
At least 200 to 300 structures were damaged in just the city of Monroe alone, Mayor Jamie Mayo said. No deaths were reported from the city, but some residents were injured.
Monroe is still recovering from flooding a few years ago, resident Jared Moore told CNN affiliate KNOE. He said neighbors worked together to rescue two women and four infants in the area.
“We actually band together and kind of canvassed the neighborhood to see who needed help. And thank God nobody was injured,” Charlie Collins told KNOE.
“All of this stuff can be replaced, but life can’t.”
Aerial video from CNN affiliate WYFF showed one home in Seneca, South Carolina, with no roof. Inside one end of the house, there were two trucks in the pile. Outside the home, a line of debris covered the front yard, apparently indicating the direction of the storm.
A tree fell on a home in Sanford, North Carolina, sending a family of 10 scrambling to find each other, CNN affiliate WRAL reported. One child, a 12-year-old boy, was trapped in his bed by a fallen tree.
“When I heard a crackle and I heard the thunder, the boom, I just ran through the house, just thinking the thunder scared the kids. But then, when I got upstairs, you could see the dust and hear my baby hollering,” Tammy Marsh said.
“When I opened the door, you could see his neck sticking out up under the debris,” she said. “There was a beam over his head that I had to lift up and pull him away from under.”
Brandon Ocotree said he was dreaming when the roof came down on him.
“At first, I was just trying to pull everything off me, and I couldn’t, so I called for help,” he said. The boy was taken to the hospital and treated for some scrapes and scratches, WRAL reported.
Newly homeless storm victims look for shelter
In the South, displaced residents are looking for shelter as coronavirus concerns loom.
In Louisiana, Mayo has asked hotels in Monroe to provide rooms for the newly homeless because the coronavirus outbreak has made opening an emergency shelter potentially dangerous.
Hotlines have been established to find housing for those who don’t have a safe place to stay.
In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency and suspended coronavirus orders where life could be endangered.
“Shelters and community safe rooms should remain open and accessible to all individuals seeking refuge from this severe weather, while implementing reasonable practices and procedures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among those seeking shelter,” Ivey said.
And in Mississippi, officials said most county safe rooms were equipped with hand sanitizer. Residents were advised to wear masks in the rooms.