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Storms cause havoc, power losses in Southern states

At least one furniture plant destroyed

Office workers in Winston's two buildings here were relocated to its Birmingham offices following severe Southern storms that included countless tornadoes and left a death toll of more than 200 in Alabama alone.

"The tornado went through and did some damage to the older building and the offices," said Gene Moriarity, president and CEO of Brown Jordan International, Winston's parent company. "There were no people in the building when it happened." He added there were no injuries to employees or major damages to their homes.

Customer service and credit officers worked Friday in the company's Birmingham offices, which had full power. By Friday afternoon, electric service had not been restored in the Haleyville area.

Moriarty said the relocated workers will likely work in Birmingham for a week while one of the Haleyville buildings is rewired. By the time electric power is restored, he expects the workers to be relocated into the newer building in Haleyville.

The Haleysville buildings have not been used for production since 2008. Because Winston's manufacturing is backed up in its plants in Mexico and California, the storms "had no impact on us whatsoever," Moriarty said. "It's just a matter of people being significantly inconvenienced for a couple of days."

The storm hit the north side of Birmingham and did not damage Summer Classics' headquarters, which is located about 20 miles south of Birmingham. Damages were reported at the home of only one Summer Classics employee, according to Vice President Harold Hudson.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.-based fabric manufacturer Phifer Wire Products was in one of areas hardest hit by the storm.  "We are OK," said Hugo Benitez, Phifer corporate market manager, designed fabrics. "The plant suffered minimal damage, but the city has awful damage."
At least one indoor furniture plant was destroyed and others were damaged by the severe storms Wednesday that hit northeast Mississippi and other Southern states. Tornadoes hop-scotched across a large swath that included Smithville, Miss., where damaging winds destroyed a plant belonging to upholstery maker Townhouse Furniture, where 160 people were employed.

Company executive Mark Dauler said that, except for 10 to 15 people remaining in the plant, workers were sent home early Wednesday and no one was injured. Dauler said at least one employee in a mobile home near the Townhouse facility was killed when the storm barreled through.

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