The most recent death was of 52-year-old Jacqueline Williams, whose car skidded into a rain-swollen creek. She was a resident of the town of Florence, population 4,000, in Rankin County, Mississippi.
shout out to our Uber driver who was crazy enough to drive in a flood/tornado warning pic.twitter.com/TD8lOVFCBC— Molly Chrisman (@mollychrisman) April 5, 2017
Elsewhere in the state, in the small town of Glendora, Shirley Thomas was killed by a tree falling on her house. Two more deaths were reported in Louisiana and a fifth in South Carolina.
A total of 75 million Americans were reported to be at risk from severe weather, primarily in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Florida. Storm watches are in effect across even more territory, from as far north as New York and as far west as Missouri.
Lightning and tornadoes wreaked havoc in Alabama, causing "significant damage" to at least 25 homes in Henry and DeKalb Counties and leaving hundreds without power. No serious injuries were reported. Thirty Alabama counties canceled school on Wednesday.
Alabama governor Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency and deployed 50 National Guard soldiers throughout the Yellowhammer State. "Alabama is no stranger to the impact severe weather can have on communities and the devastation that can occur when the weather takes a turn for the worse," Bentley said in the statement.
"I have issued a State of Emergency as a precautionary measure to ensure state resources are on standby and are ready to assist impacted communities should the need arise. I also want to encourage individuals to stay weather aware and have a method to receive the latest weather alerts."
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards also put his state on "high alert" and urged people to stay off the roads. "It is an extremely dangerous weather event," he told reporters.
A tornado made its warpath through south Georgia just hours after lightning strikes damaged homes less than 30 miles outside of Atlanta. Georgia Power has reported around 5,000 people without power as of Wednesday afternoon. The Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, was forced to postpone.
Augusta Road at Chris Drive in West Columbia! pic.twitter.com/BgOaLrbP1r— Paul Kirby (@swlexledger) April 5, 2017
Storms will continue throughout the southeast through Wednesday night.