At least nine people were killed and the death toll was expected to rise after more than a dozen tornadoes struck the southeastern United States on Thursday.
Seven deaths were reported in Autauga County, Alabama, northwest of Montgomery, according to county Emergency Management Agency director Ernie Baggett. Six of the deaths were reported on Thursday and the seventh was confirmed a day later.
In Georgia, a 5-year-old boy was killed when a tree hit his car. The second fatality in Georgia was a Department of Transportation worker who was responding to damage caused by the storm, Gov. Brian Kemp said at a news conference on Friday.
Kemp said damage from multiple tornadoes was seen across Georgia.
“The storm swept across our state, unfortunately it was a tragic night and morning in our state,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous environment.”
Search and rescue efforts are underway across the southeast as authorities fear the death toll could rise.
In Autauga County, Alabama, crews resumed surveying the damage and discovered at least 40 homes that were either completely destroyed or uninhabitable, Baggett said.
He said he has never seen anything like this before in Autauga County.
“It’s complete devastation,” he said. “There are some, some of our county roads that only have one or two houses left that might be habitable.”
Drone video revealed extensive damage in Selma and Greensboro, Alabama, where roofs were ripped off and trees downed.
In downtown Selma, some areas are littered with power poles, trees, and some roads are completely blocked.
The National Weather Service’s office in Birmingham, Ala., said it had received “many devastating reports of damage” and would be surveying the damage in the coming days.
Until here, an EF2 tornado, called a Delmar tornado, has been confirmed in Winston County, north of Selma, meaning there were three-second bursts of 111 to 135 mph, according to the agency. Delmar had an estimated peak wind of 125 mph and its pathwidth was about 425 years.
EF2 damage was also confirmed in Selma and at least EF3 damage in Autauga County, meaning there were three-second bursts of 136 to 165 mph.
“While these areas of damage were caused by the same storm, it is not yet known whether there was a continuous path of damage,” the National Weather Service said.
In Georgia, several departments, including the state’s Emergency Management Agency, are responding and assessing the damage. The Department of Public Safety helped rescue students who were trapped in a school overnight and reunite them with their parents, according to Colonel Chris Wright.
The Governor of Georgia along with Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones took a helicopter tour of the damage on Friday.
At least 33,400 homes and businesses in Alabama and Georgia remained without power as of Friday afternoon, according to Poweroutage.us.
Minyvonne Burke, Steve Strouss, Doha Madani, Phil Hellel, Nicole Duarte and Michelle Acevedo contributed.
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