At least 2 killed in Alabama as severe storms and tornadoes sweep across the South
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Severe storms and tornadoes swept through parts of the South Tuesday through Wednesday morning, killing at least two people in Alabama and damaging homes, other buildings and downing trees in several states, officials said.
Two people were killed and at least one other injured when a tornado struck Wednesday morning in the Flatwood area near Alabama’s capital, Montgomery County emergency management director Christina Thornton told CNN.
“Many more lives have been saved thanks to the heroic efforts of our first responders. We pray for our community as we mourn this tragic loss of life,” Thornton said.
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At least 30 tornado reports have been reported since Tuesday afternoon, mostly in central and southern Mississippi and Alabama, and in Louisiana, the Storm Prediction Center said. Winds also uprooted trees in Tennessee and Georgia.
The tornado that killed two in the Flatwood area near Montgomery had winds estimated at 110 miles per hour, the National Weather Service said. According to the service, tornadoes are also said to have caused damage in the west and southwest of the state.
The Weather Service upgraded the tornado to an EF-2 with winds of 115 mph late Wednesday. The update was based on an investigation into significant tree damage and downed high-voltage power lines in the area, the assessment said.
An apartment complex was torn apart near Eutaw in Greene County late Tuesday, with the roof ripped off and missing walls exposing residents’ rooms, video provided by CNN affiliate WBMA showed.
The damage led some displaced people to seek shelter at a middle school, WBMA reported.
In Tallassee — 30 miles northeast of Montgomery — Joe Mays told CNN that he, his wife Ashley and their three sons were asleep in their home when the severe weather’s phone alerts woke them. They had just enough time to get dressed and figure out what was going on before the storm hit.
“When we found out where it was, it was pretty damn close overhead and[we]had just enough time to hide in a tiny wannabe hideout,” Mays said. “We were crammed there, but I would rather have been crammed and made sure I had everyone covered than expand and stay loose.”
They were struck by small pieces of debris, such as insulation and wood chips from their rabbit’s cage, and one of his sons sustained a scratch on his leg. Mays said her home was badly damaged but they are hoping to salvage some of their belongings.
In nearby Hale County, in the small town of Akron, many trees and some homes were damaged. A fallen tree rested on the roof of a house, pictures of WBMA and the CNN subsidiary WVTM showed. No injuries were immediately reported in Akron, said Russell Weeden, the county’s director of emergency management.
In Sumiton, just outside Birmingham, a commercial building had its roof blown off, hitting a house, city officials said.
In Lowndes County, east of Starkville, a tree fell through Mary Perkins’ trailer home, practically cutting it in half.
The storm, which may have included a tornado, sounded “like a train going by,” Perkins told CNN on Wednesday. Nobody was injured.
“Hopefully I can afford a caravan to get back in. … As old as I am, I do not think of building a house. I’m hoping for a trailer,” said Perkins, who has lived in the county for 34 years.
Volunteer firefighters were helping some people trapped in damaged buildings, said Neil Austin, Lowndes County fire department coordinator.
“We managed to reach out to some people who had to hole up in their messed up homes,” Austin told CNN on Wednesday.
In the same county, a church tower was blown up and a grocery store damaged in the township of Steens on Tuesday night, Cindy Lawrence, the county’s emergency management chief, told CNN. No deaths or injuries were reported in the county, Austin said.
Mississippi State University in Starkville briefly asked students to take shelter during a tornado warning Tuesday night. Earlier in the day, classes at two school campuses were being taught remotely and some dining rooms were closed over the threat. Regular operations are expected to resume on Wednesday, the university said.
Several homes were damaged in Caldwell Parish in northern Louisiana, where the National Weather Service reports a tornado is said to have hit Tuesday night, CNN affiliate KNOE reported. At least one home collapsed, with bricks, boxes, a mattress and other debris strewn around the area, KNOE video showed.
More than 41,000 power outages were reported in the Southeast late Wednesday morning, including 25,000 in Alabama, 12,000 in Tennessee and 4,000 in Mississippi, according to utility tracker PowerOutage.us.
Some parts of the South, including between Huntsville and Birmingham in Alabama, rained between 2 and 4 inches on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the Storm Forecasting Center issued a rare “particularly hazardous situation” tornado watch, which is usually intended for the greatest severe storm threats. This clock was in effect for central Mississippi, northeast Louisiana, and southwest Arkansas until early Wednesday and has since expired.