Two journalists killed reporting on fringe of US storm

Two journalists killed reporting on fringe of US storm
Beachgoers walk on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, Florida as Subtropical Storm Alberto approaches the Gulf Coast. Pic: Nick Tomecek/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP

Two journalists reporting on severe weather on the fringe of Subtropical Storm Alberto in the US have been killed after their car was hit by a tree.

Police said a large tree toppled on the TV news vehicle near Tryon, North Carolina, on Monday.

Station WYFF-TV of Greenville, South Carolina, said one of its news anchors, Mike McCormick, and photojournalist, Aaron Smeltzer, were killed.

The pair had just interviewed Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant as they reported on fringe storms in North Carolina, hundreds of miles from the centre of Alberto.

Mr Tennant said minutes later he got a call "and it was them".

He did not directly blame Alberto for the deaths, noting the tree became loose in ground already saturated by a week rain.

Authorities so far have not attributed any deaths or injuries directly to the storm.

It rumbled inland on Monday after striking the Gulf Coast, driving holiday beachgoers away amid heavy rains that raised a dangerous flood threat around the South.

Forecasters warned that heavy downpours from the vast storm system were increasing the potential for life-threatening flash floods across north Florida, much of Alabama and large areas of Georgia - and elsewhere around the Southeast.

The National Hurricane Centre in Miami said Alberto had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph on Monday evening and was crawling north at 10 mph as it began taking aim at the Southeast.

Potentially life-threatening rough surf and rip currents continued on the northern Gulf Coast after Alberto rolled up big waves and tides.

Lifeguards posted red flags along the white sands of Pensacola Beach, where swimming and wading were banned as Alberto disrupted long holiday weekend plans for millions.

The storm also forced some Memorial Day tributes to be cancelled across Florida's Panhandle.

Safety was the priority, but the decision was still a "heart-breaker," said Tom Rice, a 29-year-old Army veteran who leads the organisations that had planned a ceremony Monday at Beal Memorial Cemetery in Fort Walton Beach.

Elsewhere, Florida's Division of Emergency Management said, about 2,600 customers were without power for a time in northwestern Florida on Monday.

PA

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