Southeast tornadoes: Searches continue a day after tornadoes and storms strike the South, killing at least 9


Recovery and search efforts continued in the south on Friday, a day after severe storms and tornadoes battered the region, killing at least nine people, blowing roofs off homes and cutting power to thousands.

At least seven people were killed in Autauga County in central Alabama, while two others, including a 5-year-old boy, were killed in Georgia, officials said. In those states and Kentucky, there were at least 35 early tornado reports in the storm that damaged power lines, snapped tree limbs and sent debris flying into streets.

Searches continued Friday in Autauga County because officials still weren’t sure who was responsible for everyone in the damaged homes, state emergency management official Ricky Adams told CNN on Friday.

“Our top priority today continues to be saving lives in any areas where search and rescue is conducted,” said Adams, who put the county’s death toll at seven.

Coroner Buster Barber said earlier that officers there were “looking for more bodies” on Friday morning. It was not immediately clear if that was reflected in the toll.

Just one county to the west, a massive tornado caused widespread destruction in the Alabama city of Selma, known for its role in the civil rights movement and home to about 17,000 people. At the Selma tax office, Deborah Brown and others had to run for safety after seeing what looked like a tornado moving down the street, she said.

“We would have gone,” Brown said in a Facebook video. “We had to run for cover. We had to run and jump in the closet.

While the damage was “tremendous,” no casualties were reported, Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. said during a news conference Friday.

The storm was on land for at least 50 miles in Selma and damaged seven counties, National Weather Service meteorologist Gerald Satterwhite said. It was likely an EF-2 or EF-3 on the enhanced Fujita scale, he said, meaning twister-laden wind gusts of up to 111 mph.

In central Georgia’s Buttes County, a 5-year-old was killed when a tree fell on top of his car, the county coroner’s office said. A state employee was also killed by falling debris while responding to the storm, Gov. Brian Kemp said Friday.

Thursday’s severe storms left nearly 40,000 homes and businesses in the dark Friday morning in Georgia and Alabama, according to tracking site

The hurricane marked the latest bout of severe weather to turn deadly in the US as experts point to human-induced climate change as the reason for such extreme events. Millions of people in California are suffering from weeks of flooding rains that have killed at least 18 people and left thousands without power.

A tornado damaged businesses in downtown Selma, Alabama on Thursday.

Selma’s mayor told residents to conserve water as the outage affected treatment facilities and the storm made way for cooler, albeit sunny, weather across the region.

“We’re going to have to layer up and get ready,” Perkins said, adding that overnight lows over the next several days were due to dip below freezing.

The governors of Alabama and Georgia declared states of emergency in affected areas to aid in rescue and cleanup efforts.

“We are all too familiar with devastating weather, but our people are resilient,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a tweet. “We will get through it and be stronger for it.”

Storm damage is seen in Selma on Thursday.

In addition to the tornado and storm damage, damaging winds swept across the region from Mississippi to Virginia.

Across the southern and central US, more than 160 damaging wind reports were reported in Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. Nineteen severe hail reports were reported in Kentucky, Ohio, Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia.

In northeast Mississippi, several buildings were flattened or severely damaged in Monroe County after the storm passed Thursday morning, a video tweeted by the state’s emergency management agency showed. There were no reports of injuries, the agency said.

Tornado damage in Alabama’s Dallas County — home to Selma — stretched the length of the county, Coroner William Allen Dailey said in a video conference.

Cordel Tyus and Devo McGraw sit on the roof that was blown off an industrial building and wrapped around their home after a tornado ripped through Selma, Alabama on Thursday.

Krishun Moore’s home in Selma was torn apart when the storm sent her and her mother sheltering in their bathroom, she said. “All we heard was wind and the whole house was shaking,” Moore told CNN, adding that no one was hurt.

The damage in downtown Selma made it nearly impossible to leave the area Thursday, said Priscilla Lewis, who shared photos with CNN. No deaths were reported in Dallas County as of Thursday, but several residents were injured.

“This is a disaster area. Power lines are down and trees are down — this is really dangerous,” Dallas County Probate Judge Jimmy Nunn said during a news conference.

In neighboring Autauga County, at least 20 homes were damaged or destroyed, according to Gary Weaver, deputy director of the county’s emergency management agency.

The National Weather Service in Birmingham said damage survey teams would be on the ground throughout the area over the next several days.

A damaged home is seen as a result of severe weather Thursday near Prattville, Alabama.

As storm damage blocked roads in Georgia, some students were unable to leave four middle schools south of Atlanta, their school systems said Thursday night.

By Friday morning, more than two dozen students had been reunited with their families, the Griffin-Spalding County School System said in a social media post, after they had to shelter on school grounds as storm debris blocked roads.

Spalding County declared a state of emergency Thursday due to a tornado reported there, officials said on Facebook, urging residents to shelter in place. Parts of the state were under a tornado watch Thursday night.

“Once you start hitting the roads, there’s no way to get where you’re going,” Spalding County Public Works Director TJ Imberger said.

The Griffin-Spalding School District will be closed Friday as the area recovers.


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