As many as 10 tornadoes ripped across the Deep South on Thursday, killing at least five people, uprooting 100-year-old trees, stripping roofs from houses, and seriously damaging schools and businesses.
The twisters — an estimated eight in Alabama and two in Georgia — were spawned by “supercell” thunderstorms, according to John De Block, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham.
In the western Georgia town of Newnan on Friday, among several communities west of Atlanta walloped by the storms, volunteers lugging their own chain saws helped carve up fallen trees.
Charlene Watson’s apartment building was ripped apart by the tornado. She awoke to sirens and moved as quickly as she could to the basement before the twister tore the roof off her building.
Her son, Shawn Menard, waded through the debris, collecting the crosses that had lined Watson’s bedroom wall and any other family mementos that could be salvaged.
“Just be thankful for everything you’ve got, because you are not promised the next day. Nothing is,” Watson said, holding back tears.
One person died overnight in a medical emergency, according to Deputy Chief of Police Mark Cooper, although it wasn’t immediately clear if the death was connected to the tornado. The person’s name was not released as officials tried to notify family members.
The Red Cross was trying to find hotels for 15 people who had fled to emergency shelters.
Officials found “heavy, heavy damage” in parts of the city’s historic district, Newnan Fire Chief Stephen Brown told a news conference.
In Alabama, one of the twisters, which formed in the southwestern part of the state, carved up ground for more than an hour and traveled about 100 miles, causing heavy damage in the city of Centreville, south of Tuscaloosa.
De Block said the tornado dissipated in Shelby County, where another twister had already heavily damaged homes and businesses and devastated the landscape.
The county is home to suburban Birmingham cities such as Pelham and Helena and the unincorporated subdivision of Eagle Point — all of which suffered heavy damage.
Larry and Mary Rose DeArman sheltered in a basement closet as the tornado slammed into their Eagle Point house, collapsing it into a pile of bricks.
“I could see the house splitting apart. … could see the sky, and then debris hit me in the head,” Mary Rose, 69, said.
Neighbors lowered ladders into the basement so that the DeArmans could climb out. They both escaped serious injuries.
All of the five confirmed storm-related deaths were in Calhoun County.
County Coroner Pat Brown identified them Friday as Joe Wayne Harris, 74; Barbara Harris, 69; Ebonique Harris, 28; Emily Myra Wilborn, 72; and James William Geno, 72.
“For those families, it will never be the same,” Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade said at briefing on Thursday evening.
Latasha Harris-Ramos told WBRC that her mother, father and sister all died when the tornado struck their home.
Latasha, who lives in Virginia, tried reaching her family, and then her brother called and told her that her sister had died and they couldn’t find her parents. She got in the car and drove down immediately.
“I’m in a lot of pain. I’m in shock. I’m numb,” she told the station.
Dangerous weather wasn’t limited to Georgia and Alabama. Officials warned of strong thunderstorms and potential flooding across the southern U.S., including in parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and the Carolinas.
One person was hospitalized in Sumner County, Tennessee, and the Nashville Fire Department posted photos on Twitter showing downed trees, damaged homes and streets blocked by debris.
Thousands of residents remained without electricity in Alabama.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said President Joe Biden’s administration is in close contact with state and local officials, but hasn’t received any requests for federal assistance yet.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.