7 dead in Alabama, Georgia after tornadoes, severe storms ravage Southeast: Updates

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At least seven people were killed, several were injured and extensive damage was reported Thursday as tornadoes and extreme weather rolled through the Southeast U.S.

A series of tornadoes and storms that ripped through central Alabama killed at least six. In Georgia, a tree fell on a vehicle during a severe storm, killing a passenger inside.

Several states were under tornado watches through Thursday evening. Nationwide, there were 33 separate tornado reports Thursday from the National Weather Service as of Thursday evening, though the reports were not yet confirmed and some could be classified as wind damage in the coming days.

Some of the worst damage from what the National Weather Service described as a “large and extremely dangerous tornado” impacted the historical city of Selma, Alabama, and surrounding areas, where homes were ravaged and trees were uprooted. 

The storm system comes as Californians are enduring a series of atmospheric river storms that have killed at least 18 people in flooding and landslides that has caused over $1 billion in damage thus far. 

BEFORE AND AFTER: Drastic images capture the devastation from a series of storms in California

Homes damaged, destroyed by tornado in Alabama; multiple people trapped inside apartment complex

Tornadoes and severe winds brought widespread damage across the south Thursday.

Homes with ripped-off roofs and uprooted trees could be seen in central Alabama. About 40 homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado that cut a 20-mile path across two rural communities in Autauga County, 41 miles northeast of Selma, said county emergency management director Ernie Baggett.

Several mobile homes were launched into the air and at least 12 people were injured, Baggett told The Associated Press. In Selma, Alabama, a tornado tore a path through the downtown area causing buildings to collapse, cars to flip, and mangled power lines.

The storm in Georgia appeared to have pushed a freight train off its tracks in Butts County, about 53 miles southeast of Atlanta, officials said. 

In Griffin, a city about 38 miles south of Atlanta, officials said multiple people had been trapped inside an apartment complex after trees fell on it. A high school and shopping area was also damaged. The city of Griffin imposed a curfew from 10 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday.

1 killed, train cars derailed after Georgia storm

A tree fell on a vehicle during a possible tornado in Jackson, Georgia, killing a person in the passenger seat, according to Butts County Coroner Lacey Prue. 

Elsewhere in the county, the force of the storm appeared to have knocked a freight train off its tracks, blocking intersections in the area. Butts County officials said three cars from the train were derailed.

“Please understand that we cannot move the train,” officials said.

The first call we received was from Master Brand Cabinets, the large manufacturing center at I-75 and Georgia 16 in Butts County. This was part of the damage discovered at the facility. Fortunately all employees were safely evacuated and no injuries requiring EMS were reported. pic.twitter.com/V5fTKyskHP

— J. Michael Brewer (@JMichaelBrewer) January 13, 2023

Local officials posted photos and video on social media of damage caused by the storm. One video posted by Deputy County Manager J. Michael Brewer showed water pouring into a large warehouse owned by Master Brand Cabinets after the metal roof had been torn away. 

Schools in Butts County will be closed on Friday.

6 dead in Alabama after tornado hits Autauga County

Several tornadoes were reported across central Alabama Thursday, but a confirmed twister killed at least six people in Autauga County, officials said.

The confirmed tornado traveled through Dallas and Autauga counties, causing damage. 

The six people, who haven’t been identified, were killed in Autauga County, about 40 miles northeast of Selma, according to Autauga County Sheriff David Hill. Hill said one of the victims was an adult male located in the Old Kingston area. 

Multiple people were trapped in their homes and at least 12 were unaccounted for after the tornado, officials said. Rescue efforts were underway Thursday. 

MORE FROM ALABAMA: Death toll climbs as tornado rips through Autauga County, Selma

Officials estimate that 40 to 50 homes were damaged or destroyed by storms that cut a strip across the county, according to Ernie Baggett, the emergency management director in Autauga County. He said at least 12 people were injured severely and taken to hospitals by emergency responders. Crews, he added, were focused on cutting through downed trees to look for others who may be injured.

Cleanup, rescues underway after Selma, Alabama tornado

About 40 miles away in the historic city of Selma, the swirling, fast-moving storm system shredded the walls of homes, toppled roofs and uprooted trees.

Across Selma, power lines and hundreds of trees were felled. Former State Sen. Hank Sanders said it was “raining through the roof” in his kitchen after the storm damaged his house.

Cars were on their side and traffic poles were strewn about in the downtown area. Plumes of thick, black smoke rose over the city from a fire burning. It was not immediately known whether the storm caused the blaze. A few blocks past the city’s famed Edmund Pettus Bridge, an enduring symbol of the voting rights movement, buildings were crumpled by the storm and trees blocked roadways.

“It happened in about five seconds,” said Caleb Morris.

Morris lives in the neighborhood behind the Selma Country Club, which lost its roof in the storm. He rode out the storm in his basement and was relieved to find no damage to his house. 

The Selma Country Club’s roof was ripped off in the tornado. At least one person was believed to be trapped in Selma County, but no deaths were reported in Selma County as of Thursday evening. 

Selma Mayor James Perkins put a city curfew in place as first responders survey the damage.

Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency for six counties after the severe weather struck.

Tornado warnings issued across the South

There were multiple tornado warnings issued Thursday across parts of Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee as a storm system moved through the region, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center said.

Heading into the evening, the weather service said parts of the Florida panhandle, and the southeast of Alabama and Georgia were under tornado watches through 9 p.m.

“A couple tornadoes,” and wind gusts of up to 65 mph were possible in those areas, NWS said, along with large hail events up to 1 inch in diameter. 

Potential tornado damage reported in Kentucky, Mississippi

In Kentucky, the National Weather Service in Louisville confirmed an EF-1 tornado struck Mercer County and said crews were surveying damage in a handful of other counties.

In Monroe County, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency officials said they were surveying some severe damage after a potential tornado.

Another storm hit Griffin, south of Atlanta, Georgia, with winds damaging a shopping area, local news outlets reported. A Hobby Lobby store lost part of its roof, and at least one car flipped over in the parking lot of a nearby Walmart.

Power outages reported across Alabama, Georgia

More than 36,000 customers were without power in Alabama and more than 76,000 were in the dark in Georgia as of 9 p.m. ET Thursday, according to the tracker PowerOutage.us. Another 14,000 were also without electric in both Tennessee and North Carolina. 

Contributing: Thao Nguyen, USA TODAY; Brad Harper, Alex Gladden, Marty Roney, Hadley Hitson, Evan Mealins, Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser; The Associated Press

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