OHATCHEE, Ala.—Tornadoes and severe storms tore through the Deep South, killing at least five people as strong winds splintered trees, wrecked homes and downed power lines.
Multiple twisters sprang from a “super cell” of storms that rolled over western Georgia early March 26 after spawning as many as eight tornadoes in Alabama on March 25, said John De Block, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham.
One large, dangerous tornado moved through Newnan, destroying homes there and damaging others in surrounding communities west of Atlanta, meteorologists said.
A day earlier, one tornado formed in southwest Alabama and carved up the ground for more than an hour March 25, traveling roughly 100 miles and causing heavy damage in the city of Centreville, south of Tuscaloosa.
Mr. De Block said it 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 suffering heavy damage.
Still another of the eight suspected tornadoes that hit the state killed five people in Calhoun County. The confirmed deaths in Calhoun County, in the eastern part of the state, where one of multiple twisters sprang from a “super cell” of storms later moved into Georgia, said Mr. De Block.
“Five people lost their lives and for those families, it will never be the same,” Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade said at a briefing.
Reports of tornado damage in the Newnan area began coming in shortly after midnight. One-hundred-year-old trees were toppled, and power lines downed.
Stephen Brown, fire chief in the city of Newnan said during a televised morning news conference that rescue teams were methodically checking every structure and assessing the destruction. They’ve found “heavy, heavy damage” in parts of the city’s historic district, he said.
“It’ll never look the same,” Mr. Brown said.
The bad weather stretched across the southern U.S., raising concerns of thunderstorms and flooding in parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and the Carolinas. Emergency responders hospitalized one person in Sumner County, Tennessee, and the Nashville Fire Department posted photos on Twitter showing large trees down, damaged homes and streets blocked by debris.
Torrential rains across Tennessee flooded homes and at least one church and left roads impassable, prompting dozens of people to be rescued in the Nashville area. Authorities said four bodies were found March 28 in the flood’s aftermath. At least 130 people were rescued from cars, apartments and homes.
To the south in Williamson County, over 34 swift water rescues were carried out, according to county Emergency Management Agency Director Todd Horton. As many as 18 homes in one neighborhood had to be evacuated.
Many rivers and creeks were at or near their highest level since 2010, according to the National Weather Service. Floods in May 2010 caused 21 deaths in Tennessee and an estimated $1.5 billion in damage in Nashville.
More than 150,000 people were without power March 26 in Ohio and Pennsylvania after 50 mph wind gusts ripped across the region. Forecasters reported peak gusts of 63 mph in Marysville, Ohio. Some 23,000 customers remained without electricity in Alabama, according to poweroutage.us.
In the Alabama city of Pelham, James Dunaway said he initially ignored the tornado warning on his phone, but then he heard a twister approaching. He had just enough time to leave the upstairs bedroom where he had been watching television for an interior hallway before the roof and sides of his house blew off. His bedroom was left fully exposed. “I’m very lucky to be alive,” Mr. Dunaway, 75, told Al.com. (Compiled from Associated Press reports)