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Tornadoes, Vicious Storms Kill Five, Flood Large Areas of the South

by Alex Johnson and Kurt Chirbas /  / Updated 
No animals were hurt, but the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores will be closed for at least a week after it was hit by a tornado Monday.WPMI-TV

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At least five people were killed Monday as severe storms swept across the South, spinning off several tornadoes and flooding widespread areas already drenched by heavy rain.

Four people were killed in a single home when a tornado touched down Monday night in the town of Rehobeth in southeast Alabama, a spokeswoman for the Dothan-Houston County Emergency Management Agency told NBC News. No identities were immediately available.

In DeFuniak Springs, Florida, the body of a 70-year-old man was found floating Monday afternoon in floodwaters outside his travel-trailer, the Walton County Sheriff's Office said. The death was ruled an accidental drowning.

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The storm system drenched parts of Texas early Monday before moving east, causing significant damage from Louisiana to Florida. Much of the damage was caused by flash flooding after a series of storms left much of the region sodden over the past week.

"We had spots that picked up a lot of rainfall in a short amount of time — 7 to 9 inches in just a couple of days," said Danielle Banks, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel.

Lightning sparked a fire Monday morning at a home in Parker, Texas, NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reported. No injuries were reported, but three fire agencies were needed to put out the raging blaze.

In Simpson County, Mississippi, Home and Sweetwater United Methodist Church was pushed off its foundation by a possible tornado, the state Emergency Management Agency said. No injuries were reported, but homes were damaged and power was out for thousands in 18 counties across the state.

The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores, meanwhile, will be closed for at least a week after a tornado damaged several animal enclosures, the zoo said Monday. No animals were believed to have been injured.

"We've had as much damage in this tornado as we've had in hurricanes that we've gone through," said Patti Hall, the zoo's director.

Flash flood warnings remained in affect across southern Alabama near midnight Monday. Flash flood watches were in effect over a much larger region from western Alabama through western South Carolina through Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.

The system is expected to hang around until at least early Wednesday over Georgia and Florida, according to the weather service, which said some areas could get as much as 2 more inches of rain before the system moves offshore.

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