Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said Thursday evening that there were six deaths in the state after hotbed of severe weather which spawned more than two dozen tornadoes in the South.
“I am sorry to learn that six Alabamians have been lost in the storms that have devastated our state. My prayers are with their loved ones and communities. We are all too familiar with devastating weather, but our people are resilient. We will get through it and be stronger for it,” the governor said in a tweet.
The governor did not say where in the state the deaths occurred, but there were five storm-related deaths in Otaga County, according to Coroner Buster Barber.
At least 20 homes in the county were damaged or destroyed, Autauga County Deputy Emergency Management Director Gary Weaver said.
Otooga County is just east of Dallas County, where a massive tornado tore through the city of Selma on Thursday afternoon. The twister was likely on the ground for at least 50 miles and caused damage in seven counties in the state, National Weather Service meteorologist Gerald Satterwhite told CNN.
“It was a pretty significant tornado” with “debris thrown into the air to about 10,000 to 15,000 feet,” Satterwhite said.
The tornado was likely an EF-2 or EF-3, he added. It was one of at least 34 tornadoes in the U.S., according to The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.
Damage in Selma was widespread, said Dallas County Coroner William Allen Daly, who is also an emergency physician. The damage goes from “one side of Dallas County to the other,” he said during a video news conference.
Authorities said there were no deaths, but there were injuries.
What appeared to be a huge funnel cloud passed through the area, according to images shared by Mike Pitts. After he passed, Pitts’ photos showed homes without roofs, other roofs stripped of shingles, and roads blocked by piles of debris.
Selma resident Krishun Moore’s house was “destroyed” by the storm, but no one there was hurt, she told CNN. She took shelter in a bathroom with her mother.
“All we heard was wind and the whole house was shaking,” Moore said.
Photos that Priscilla Lewis images shared with CNN show downed power poles, debris strewn across the road and heavy damage to at least one building.
“It’s almost impossible to leave downtown Selma,” Lewis said.
Other photos taken by Kenneth Martin show the damage from the air. One shows a large building with what appears to be a large collapsed roof.
Deborah A. Brown told CNN she was at the tax office downtown when what she thought was the tornado touched down on Broad Street.
in posted video on Facebook after the storm passed, Brown could be heard telling people how blessed she and others there were.
“We could have been gone, all of us,” she says as she points the camera at the SUV with the windows broken. “We had to run for cover. We had to run and jump into the closet.
Brown’s video shows a huge pile of debris dragging power lines down to the ground. In the alley next to the building she was in, part of the wall of the neighboring building appeared to have collapsed.
Selma, a city of about 17,000 about 50 miles west of Montgomery, was the site of a landmark civil rights march in 1965 in which protesters were beaten and tear-gassed by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, an incident dubbed the “Bloody Sunday.”
“This is a disaster area. Power lines are down and trees are down — it’s really dangerous,” Dallas County Probate Judge Jimmy Nunn said during a news conference.
Mayor James Perkins presided over a city council meeting which, due to a power outage, was held in front of City Hall with vehicle headlights illuminating the venue.
“We need to layer up and prepare,” he said as temperatures in the area began to drop, with an overnight low forecast of 39 degrees.
He also asked residents to conserve water as water treatment plants are affected by the power situation.
on thursday night tornado watches were in effect across southern Georgia, with wind warnings still covering parts of Alabama and Georgia. Parts of North Carolina were under a severe thunderstorm warning.
Almost 140,000 customers in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas were without power as of 9:30 p.m. ET, according to PowerOutage.us.
The governors of Alabama and Georgia declared states of emergency for parts of their states.
Damage reports in the Southeast and Ohio Valley piled up Thursday as the storms advanced. In addition to the dozens of tornado reports, the National Weather Service also logged more than 140 wind reports.
Officials in Elmore County, Alabama, told CNN that one person was injured and multiple homes were damaged.
There was “a large swath of damage in the northwest part of the county,” Emergency Management Director Keith Barnett said.
Elmore County is north of Montgomery.
In north Alabama’s Morgan County alone, a storm caused 10 to 15 injuries Thursday morning — none of which were considered life-threatening — and damaged multiple buildings, county sheriff’s spokesman Mike Swofford said.
Streets and fields were strewn with debris and downed power lines in Decatur, a Morgan County community about 25 miles southwest of Huntsville, photos from city police and county sheriff’s department shown
Siding was ripped from a hotel in Decatur, according to photos taken by hotel guest Mark Spihala, who said he was sheltering in a laundry room when the storm hit Thursday morning.
“We lost power and heard the wind and rain” hitting the area outside, Spihala told CNN. Previously the National Weather Service attributed Decatur’s damage from high winds.
Several preliminary tornado reports were made this morning in Alabama, including in Winston County in northwest Alabama and Sumter County in west Alabama, where damage to buildings was reported, the weather service said.
There were downed trees and power lines reported along several of the roads of Winston County, whose communities are dozens of miles northwest of Birmingham.
“Motorists are urged to travel the roads only in emergencies and to be aware of the weather,” Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said in a series of tweets about the damage in Winston County.
In Monroe County in northeastern Mississippi, several rural buildings were flattened or severely damaged after a Thursday morning storm, according to a video posted on Twitter by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
No injuries were reported there, according to the agency, which said a tornado may have caused the damage. The weather service in advance said strong winds wreaked havoc across the county.
Wind damage to trees and buildings was also reported elsewhere in parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky before noon, the weather service said.
In Georgia, a possible tornado damaged Griffin High School in Griffin, south of Atlanta. Trees were down and there was a leak in the gym, Griffin-Spalding School District spokesman Adam Pugh said.
Downed trees on Interstate 185 prompted officials to close the highway in Troup County, according to the sheriff’s office there.
In Kentucky, three EF-1 tornadoes were confirmed by the weather service in Louisville. Tornadoes touched down in Henry, Mercer and Boyle counties.
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