VIDEO: Thunderstorm capsizes 10 boats in Alabama regatta

Two people are dead and at least four were missing after as many as 10 boats capsized this weekend in Mobile Bay, Alabama.
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Two people are dead and at least four were missing after as many as 10 boats capsized this weekend in Mobile Bay, Alabama.

Three of the boats were participating in the Dauphin Island Regatta when a thunderstorm swept through the area.

Randy Rutledge and his wife say they're grateful for their lives after finally being spotted and rescued.

"I said, Jesus calm the waters," Rutledge told News 5. "And the storm subsided just enough that I could keep my head up and not drink too much salt water, but I had no choice but to hang on to that cushion because I had to find her."

"Apparently there were a number of vessels that became distressed, either capsized or what have you. They were scattered anywhere from Dauphin Island Bridge all the way out into Mobile Bay and across to Fort Morgan. It was a wide area," Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier told al.com. The Coast Guard was searching a 2,500-mile stretch of water.

"When the storm came through, the sailboats were in varying places — all the way from Dauphin Island to Middle Bay Lighthouse,” Collier said.

Richard Mather, 52, of Mobile, was aboard a 39-foot O'Day sailboat, along with a crew of seven people, when he saw two boats collide. They had heard about the forecast of thunderstorms "but we were not prepared for a gale," Mather said, "which is almost like a 30-minute hurricane."

They were not participating in the race and were able to pull three people onto the boat about two miles north of the Dauphin Island Bridge. None of the people appeared injured. "They were exhausted, but they were fine," he said. "Their boats sunk so fast that they didn't have time to grab life preservers."

The race was scheduled to start in the middle of the bay, north of the Middle Bay Lighthouse and east of the Mobile Bay Ship Channel. From there, they were to proceed to Dauphin Island, eventually ending the first leg of the course at the headquarters of the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo.

About 4 p.m., wind gusts as strong as 59 mph swept across areas of Fairhope, according to the National Weather Service. But forecasters predicted storms with the possibility of damaging winds of about 60 mph in areas west of I-65.

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