At least 9 people are dead as deadly tornadoes ripped through and destroyed homes while knocking out power to tens of thousands in the Southeastern United States.
Local officials said on Friday that the death toll in hard-hit Alabama was expected to rise.
The storms stretched from Mississippi to Georgia, and at least 5 tornadoes touched down in Central Alabama, according to the National Weather Service’s meteorologist Jessica Laws.
One of those horrific twisters racked about 150 miles from southwest Selma, Alabama all the way to the Georgia-Alabama state line.
Rescue teams are out searching for people in Alabama’s Autauga County, where seven of the deaths have been reported.
Emergency management director Ernie Baggett said on MSNBC that he credited schools for saving more lives by not releasing students early.
County Coroner Buster Barber told Reuters the number of casualties would rise.
“We are finding more bodies as we speak,” he said in a phone interview. “We’ve got search teams out in the area.”
Storms damaged as many as 50 properties in Autauga County, according to the local sheriff’s office.
In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp confirmed two people had died in Thursday’s storms. A 5-year-old child was killed after a tree fell on a car, leaving an adult passenger in critical condition as they were driving home, Butts County Coroner Lacey Prue said.
A state employee also was killed while responding to the storm, Kemp said.
Ray Hogg said he found shelter inside a country club.
“You could hear the roar, glass going everywhere,” he said. “You could hear the roof literally being torn off right over our heads.”
Officials confirmed four tornadoes touched down in Georgia, largely southeast of Atlanta but causing damage across the state, with winds peeling off roofs, knocking down houses and uprooting trees.
Just southeast of Atlanta, a freight train had three of its cars blown off the tracks, blocking traffic. No injuries from that incident were reported, officials said.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday declared a state of emergency for the six counties of Autauga, Chambers, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore and Tallapoosa.
Thanks to our friends at Reuters for contributing to this article.
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