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Severe thunderstorms batter the Southeast

Firefighters rescued a family from a home that was surrounded by flood waters in a mobile home park in Pelham, Ala.

Jay Reeves/Associated Press

Firefighters rescued a family from a home that was surrounded by flood waters in a mobile home park in Pelham, Ala.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Severe thunderstorms crawled across the Southeast on Monday, dumping heavy rains and causing flash flooding in central Alabama, where crews in small boats and military trucks had to rescue dozens of people from their homes and cars.

In Mississippi, police and volunteers searched for a 9-year-old girl who was swept away by a flash flood after the storms dropped nearly 7 inches of rain there over the last two days. A possible tornado damaged homes and hurt seven people in another part of the state.

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The storms walloped Mississippi on Sunday and spread overnight into Alabama and Georgia. Strong winds downed trees and power lines and snarled rush-hour commutes.

In Pelham, just south of Birmingham, more than 4 inches of rain fell from 7 p.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. Monday. Police and firefighters rescued people who became trapped in townhomes and a mobile home park that flooded because of a swollen creek.

Dozens of cars had water up to their roofs, and fast-moving water rushed by the bottoms of the mobile homes. Rescue workers wearing life jackets waded through muddy water nearly to their chests to reach stranded residents. Hundreds of more people in mobile homes on higher ground were isolated because water covered the only entrance to the complex.

Pelham Fire Battalion Chief Mike Knight said people realized at daybreak that water, 7 feet deep in some places, was surrounding their homes. Some people had to abandon cars after driving into areas where the flood water was deeper than expected.

At an apartment complex in the suburb of Homewood, rescue crews used a boat to help several residents and pets get out of flooded first-floor units. Mudslides toppled trees and blocked several roads.

Some roads in Birmingham became impassable because of flood waters and fallen trees, and schools delayed opening in many areas of central Alabama due to the heavy rains.

At one point, Alabama Power Co. reported 11,000 homes and businesses without electricity, but it trimmed those outages to about 8,000 by midday.

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