Claudette regained tropical storm status Monday morning as she approached the coast of the Carolinas less than two days after 13 people – including eight children in a multi-vehicle accident – died from the effects of the storm in Alabama.
The children who died on Saturday were in a van in a youth home for abused or neglected children. The vehicle went up in flames in the wreck along a wet Interstate 65 about 55 kilometers south of Montgomery. Butler County’s medical examiner Wayne Garlock said the vehicles likely aquaplaned.
The crash also claimed the lives of two other people who were in a separate vehicle. Garlock identified them as 29-year-old Cody Fox and his 9-month-old daughter Ariana; both from Marion County, Tennessee.
Several people were also injured.
In addition, a 24-year-old man and a 3-year-old boy were killed when a tree fell on their home outside the Tuscaloosa city limits on Saturday, said Captain Jack Kennedy of the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit. Makayla Ross, a 23-year-old Fort Payne woman, died Saturday after her car drove off the road into a swollen creek, DeKalb County’s assistant medical examiner Chris Thacker told WHNT-TV.
There was also a search for a man believed to have fallen into the water in a flash flood in Birmingham, WBRC-TV reported. Crews used boats to search Pebble Creek.
On Monday morning Claudette had maximum sustained winds of 65 km / h, said the National Hurricane Center in an expert report. The storm was located 100 kilometers east-southeast of Raleigh, North Carolina and moving east-northeast at a speed of 25 mph (41 km / h), forecasters said.
The storm was expected to penetrate the Atlantic later that morning and then move near or south of Nova Scotia on Tuesday.
A tropical storm warning was in place from Cape Fear, North Carolina, to the town of Duck on the Outer Banks.
“A single tornado is possible over parts of the Outer Banks this morning,” said Brad Reinhart, a specialist at the National Hurricane Center. “By afternoon we expect the system to be good offshore.”
About 3 to 5 inches of rain were expected for the Carolinas before Claudette went out to sea.
The van in the crash on Saturday was carrying children ages 4 to 17 who belonged to the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, a youth home operated by the Alabama Sheriffs Association.
Michael Smith, the CEO of the youth ranch, said the van was back to the ranch near Camp Hill, northeast of Montgomery, after a week on the beach in Gulf Shores. Candice Gulley, the ranch manager, was the only survivor of the van – she was pulled out of the flames by a bystander.
“Words cannot explain what I saw,” said Smith of the accident site he visited on Saturday. He’d returned from Gulf Shores in a separate van and missed the crash.
Gulley stayed in the hospital in Montgomery on Sunday in serious but stable condition. Two of the dead in the van were Gulley’s children, ages 4 and 16. Four more were ranchers and two were guests, Smith said.
Garlock, the coroner, said the location of the wreck was “notorious” for aquaplaning, as the highway heads north down a hill to a small creek. Traffic on this section of I-65 is usually filled with vacationers driving to and from the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico on summer weekends.
The National Transportation Safety Board tweeted it was sending 10 investigators into the area on Sunday to investigate the crash.
Meanwhile, on the Sunday before Claudette’s arrival along the Outer Banks in North Carolina, things seemed to go as normal.
At Stack ’em High in Kill Devil Hills, a restaurant that specializes in pancakes, co-owner Dawn Kiousis said restaurant service was full on Sunday morning.
“You keep an eye on the weather and prepare as much in advance as you can,” she said. “Just know she’ll win. Mother Nature will do what she will, so just prepare. “