CHINA SPRING, Texas (AP) -- A grandmother anxiously watched as an Army helicopter safely plucked her three grandchildren from the roof of a school bus while floodwaters swirled around the vehicle, threatening to sweep it downstream.
The dramatic rescue came as a storm system packing hurricane-force winds lashed parts of the South on Friday, knocking out power to thousands of homes and killing at least two people.
"It was pretty frightful. I just couldn't believe it," Barbara Vana said after watching news footage of the children's rescue. "I talked to them tonight. They're still pretty wound up."
Soldiers rescued the three siblings and their bus driver -- who called 911 from his cellular phone -- by strapping them into a harness and individually airlifting them into the arms of an Army medic.
"I kept saying 'it's going to be OK, it's going to be OK,"' said Scott Vana, 11, who was hoisted from the bus along with his 7-year-old brother Joshua Collins, and 5-year-old sister Tammara Mills.
"I was thinking 'please don't let her fall, please don't let her fall,' Scott said.
At one point, one of the children was caught in a tree limb, but was freed moments later.
Rain totals for the past two days have approached a half-foot in some locations around the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Rain also drenched parts of Arkansas and Alabama, and wind gusts of nearly 100 mph were reported in Birmingham, where authorities said a woman was killed when a tree fell on a vehicle.
Alabama Power Co. spokeswoman Sandi George said 270,000 homes and businesses were without electricity.
In Mississippi, a woman was killed after she stepped out of her truck and it was blown into her, a Holmes County sheriff's dispatcher said.
The storms moved into Georgia in the evening, downing trees and power lines. More than 60,000 homes were without electricity at the height of the storm, Georgia Power Co. officials said.
Elsewhere in Texas, firefighters used hovercraft to rescue eight people stranded on a flooded bridge 25 miles southwest of Dallas. Three members of the group were firefighters who attempted a rescue in a boat. No injuries were reported.
Lightning was suspected in a fire that caused $750,000 damage on Saturday to a 140-year-old church in suburban Dallas. No injuries were reported.
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