By KEVIN McGILL
At least five people were killed as tornadoes and violent storms struck the Deep South, and strong winds crushed trees, destroyed homes, and brought down power lines.
The tornado outbreak occurred in western Georgia at the beginning of Friday. According to meteorologists, one big dangerous tornado has passed through Newnan and the surrounding communities in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
A day ago, a sheriff in eastern Alabama said a tornado cut the county diagonally and struck primarily rural areas.
“Five people died, and for their families, it’s never the same,” Sheriff Matthew Wade of Calhorn County said in a Thursday night briefing.
One of Alabama’s devastated Ohatchee victims was a neighbor of Dwight Jennings. Jennings spent hours looking for his friend’s dog before the animal was found alive, he said. The two men were planning cat fishing this weekend, Jennings lamented.
John de Brock, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Birmingham, said eight tornadoes could have hit Alabama on Thursday. He said multiple twisters arose from the storm’s “supercell” that later moved to Georgia.
Reports of tornado damage in the Newnan area began to arrive after midnight. Trees fell, power lines went down, and services from a local power company were knocked out.
“It’s still dark, so it’s hard to assess all the damage, but I believe 30 poles are broken,” said Dennis McEntire, general manager of Newnan Utilities. “We serve about 10,000 customers, and currently about half do not use electricity.”
In a Facebook post, Newnan police urged the public to “get off the road” while emergency authorities were investigating the damage.
Newnan Mayor Keith Brady said the deaths were not reported immediately.
Bad weather spread throughout the southern United States, raising concerns about thunderstorms and floods in parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Carolina. In Tennessee, emergency responders hospitalized one in Sumner County, and the Nashville Fire Department posted a photo on Twitter showing that a large tree had fallen and houses and streets were blocked by debris.
In Ohio, more than 100,000 people lost power early Friday after a thunderstorm caused a 50 mph (80 kph) gust in parts of the state. Forecasters reported a gust peak at 63 mph (100 km) in Marysville.
Some school districts from Alabama to Ohio canceled or postponed classes on Friday due to damage and power outages.
According to officials, a tornado broke through the ground for more than an hour on Thursday and traveled about 100 miles (160 km) through Alabama. The vast area of Shelby County near Birmingham, the state’s largest city, was severely damaged.
In the city of Pelham, James Dunaway said he initially ignored the tornado warning when it arrived by phone. But then he heard the twister approaching, left the bedroom upstairs where he was watching TV, and entered the hallway — just before the storm blew off the roof and sides of his house. His bedroom remained completely exposed.
“I’m very lucky to be alive,” 75-year-old Dunaway told Al.com.
A firefighter outside the flat house in the Eagle Point district, also in Shelby County, said the family who lived there brought it to life. The nearby house had no roof or no two stories.
Cindy Smitherman, his family and neighbors, south of Tuscaloosa and further west of Centerville, flocked to an underground storm hole as Twister passed home.
Smitherman, 62, said a tree had fallen on the shelter door and locked eight people in for about 20 minutes before bringing a chainsaw. Twister knocked down a tree, turned the car over, and destroyed the workshop on the premises.
“I’m glad we were alive,” she said.
Centerville Mayor Mike Oakley told ABC 33/40 news that a local airport had been attacked. “The planes have fallen apart like toys. There are houses that have been completely destroyed, trees have fallen, and power lines have fallen. It’s pretty devastating.”
First lady Jill Biden has postponed her scheduled trip to Birmingham, Alabama and Jasper on Friday due to stormy weather, her office said.
“I’m thinking of everyone in Alabama and everyone affected by the stormy weather in the south tonight. My prayers are with my sad family. Stay safe,” Biden said Thursday. Tweeted late.
Previously, Alabama Governor Kay Ivy issued an emergency declaration to 46 counties, and authorities opened shelters in and around Birmingham.
Magill reported from New Orleans. Associated Press writer Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama. Butch Dill, a photographer in Ohatchee, Alabama. Desiree Mathurin, Atlanta; Jeff Martin of Marietta, Georgia contributed to this report.
Tornado outbreak rips across Deep South; at least 5 dead – Press Enterprise Source link Tornado outbreak rips across Deep South; at least 5 dead – Press Enterprise