Home Posts After 13 Fatalities, Claudette Regains Tropical Storm Status.
After 13 Fatalities, Claudette Regains Tropical Storm Status.

After 13 Fatalities, Claudette Regains Tropical Storm Status.

ATLANTA (AP) — Tropical Storm Claudette regained tropical storm status Monday morning as it approached the Carolina coast, less than two days after the storm killed 13 people in Alabama, including eight children in a multi-vehicle crash.

The children were in a van for a youth home for abused or neglected children when it exploded in flames on a wet Interstate 65 about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Montgomery, according to Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock.

Garlock identified the victims as 29-year-old Cody Fox and his 9-month-old daughter, Ariana, both of Marion County, Tennessee.

Several other people were also hurt.

A 24-year-old man and a 3-year-old boy were also killed Saturday when a tree fell on their house just outside Tuscaloosa city limits, according to Capt. Jack Kennedy of the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit. Makayla Ross, a 23-year-old Fort Payne woman, died Saturday after her car ran off the road into a swollen creek, according to DeKalb County Deputy Coroner Chris Thacker.

WBRC-TV reported that crews were using boats to search Pebble Creek for a man who was believed to have fallen into the water during flash flooding in Birmingham.

The National Hurricane Center said in an advisory that Claudette had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and was located 65 miles (100 kilometers) east-southeast of Raleigh, North Carolina, and was moving east-northeast at 25 mph (41 kph).

The storm was expected to enter the Atlantic Ocean later in the morning and pass near or south of Nova Scotia on Tuesday.

From Cape Fear, North Carolina, to Duck on the Outer Banks, a tropical storm warning was in effect.

“An isolated tornado is possible early this morning over parts of the Outer Banks,” said Brad Reinhart, a National Hurricane Center specialist, “but we expect the system to be well offshore by the afternoon.”

Before Claudette moved out to sea, the Carolinas could see 1 to 2 inches (3 to 5 centimeters) of rain.

The Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, a youth home run by the Alabama Sheriffs Association, was carrying children ages 4 to 17 in the van that crashed on Saturday.

The van was returning to the ranch near Camp Hill, northeast of Montgomery, after a week at the beach in Gulf Shores, according to Michael Smith, the CEO of the youth ranch. Candice Gulley, the ranch director, was the 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 after returning from Gulf Shores in a separate van and missing the crash.

Gulley was in serious but stable condition at a hospital in Montgomery on Sunday. Two of the dead in the van were Gulley's children, ages 4 and 16, Smith said.

The location of the wreck is “notorious” for hydroplaning, according to Garlock, because the northbound highway curves down a hill to a small creek, and traffic on that stretch of I-65 is usually clogged with vacationers driving to and from Gulf of Mexico beaches on summer weekends.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced on Twitter that ten investigators would be dispatched to the scene on Sunday to look into the crash.


Meanwhile, along North Carolina's Outer Banks on Sunday, it appeared to be business as usual in advance of Claudette's arrival.

Dawn Kiousis, co-owner of Stack 'em High in Kill Devil Hills, a pancake restaurant, said service was busy on Sunday morning.

“You keep an eye on the weather and prepare as much as you can ahead of time,” she said, “and just know she's going to win. Mother Nature is going to do what she's going to do, so you just prepare.”

Julie Walker of the Associated Press in New York contributed to this report, which was written by Forliti in Minneapolis.

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