‘Dangerous’ tornado in Alabama smashes buildings and uproots trees across the state

‘Dangerous’ tornado in Alabama smashes buildings and uproots trees across the state

‘Dangerous’ tornado in Alabama smashes buildings and uproots trees across the state

A giant, swirling storm system that swept across the south sparked a tornado on Thursday that tore through the walls of homes, toppled roofs and uprooted trees in Selma, Alabama, a town etched in the history of the civil rights movement .

Brick buildings collapsed, cars lay flat and sign posts littered downtown. Plumes of thick, black smoke rose above the city from a burning fire. It was not immediately known whether the storm had caused the fire.

In Selma, local firefighters responded to a structure fire at a warehouse on JL Chestnut Avenue Thursday afternoon.

The “large and extremely dangerous tornado” caused damage as it passed through the historic city, the National Weather Service said. Videos showed the extent of the damage, with cameras capturing scenes of scattered debris and buildings devastated by the storm.

There were no immediate reports of fatalities, but the weather service said there were confirmed reports of damage to trees and structures in Selma and reports of damage in other counties. More than 50,000 customers were without power in Alabama, according to PowerOutage.us, which tracks outages nationwide. The tornado also resulted in poor cell service for residents.

severe weather tornado
A damaged structure and debris are seen following severe weather, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, in Selma, Ala. A large tornado damaged homes and uprooted trees in Alabama on Thursday as a powerful storm system swept through the south.

Butch Dill/AP


There’s damage “all over Selma,” former senator Hank Sanders said.

“A tornado definitely damaged Selma. It actually hit our house, but not head-on. It blew out the bedroom and living room windows. It’s raining through the kitchen roof,” Sanders said.

Selma, a town of about 18,000, is about 80 miles west of Alabama’s capital, Montgomery, which also experienced inclement weather on Thursday.

Selma was a flashpoint of the civil rights movement. Alabama State Troopers viciously attacked black people advocating for the vote as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. Among those beaten by law enforcement officers was John Lewis, whose skull was fractured. He went on to a long and distinguished career as a member of the United States Congress.

Selma Mayor James Perkins told the WSFA that at least one person is believed to have been trapped in a building on Broad Street and another person may be missing. There are several downed power lines and this is considered an emergency.

The outer skin of a two-story building was shredded by the storm, photos from the Selma Times-Journal showed. Huge chunks of insulation and metal were wrapped around a tree trunk, and fallen tree branches obscured a sign that read “WELCOME TO HISTORIC SELMA.”

severe weather tornado
Fallen trees are seen following extreme weather, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, in Selma, Ala. A large tornado damaged homes and uprooted trees in Alabama on Thursday as a powerful storm system swept through the south.

Butch Dill/AP


Malesha McVay drove alongside the tornado with her family. She said he drove less than a mile from her house before suddenly turning.

“We stopped and prayed. We followed him and prayed,” she said. “It was a 100% God thing that he shot right before he hit my house.”

She took video of the giant tornado, which turned black as it swept away house after house.

“It would hit a house and black smoke would swirl around,” she said. “It was very terrifying.”

The weather service had issued a tornado emergency for several counties just north of the capital city of Montgomery as the same storm system moved east. “This is a life-threatening situation. Take cover immediately,” the weather service said of the reported tornado.

Multiple tornado warnings were issued Thursday in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee as the storm system moved through the region.

severe weather tornado
A damaged structure and debris are seen following severe weather, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, in Selma, Ala. A large tornado damaged homes and uprooted trees in Alabama on Thursday as a powerful storm system swept through the south.

Butch Dill/AP


Alabama Governor Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency on Thursday evening, announcement on Twitter that the declaration would apply to six counties: Autauga, Chambers, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore and Tallapoosa. Selma is located in Dallas County.

In Georgia, more than 100,000 customers were without power just before sunset Thursday, according to PowerOutage.us, as the storm system ripped its way through a county level just south of Atlanta. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency.

The storm hit Griffin, south of Atlanta, with winds damaging a commercial area, local media reported. A Hobby Lobby store partially lost its roof and at least one car was overturned in the parking lot of a nearby Walmart.

Damage was also reported west of downtown Atlanta in Douglas and Cobb counties, with the Cobb County government releasing a damage report showing a collapsed cinder block wall at a suburban warehouse. of Austell.

In Kentucky, the National Weather Service in Louisville confirmed an EF-1 tornado hit Mercer County and said crews were monitoring damage in a handful of other counties. There have been reports of downed trees, power outages and other scattered damage from storms that passed through the state.

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