SELMA, Ala.—A giant, swirling storm system billowing across the South on January 12 killed at least six people in central Alabama, where a tornado ripped roofs off homes and uprooted trees in historic Selma, while another person was killed in Georgia, where severe winds knocked out power to tens of thousands of people.
In Autauga County, Alabama, 41 miles northeast of Selma, at least six fatalities were confirmed and an estimated 40 homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado that cut a 20-mile path across two rural communities, said Ernie Baggett, the county’s emergency management director.
Several mobile homes were launched into the air and at least 12 people were injured severely enough to be taken to hospitals by emergency responders, Mr. Baggett told The Associated Press. He said crews were focused the night of January 12 on cutting through downed trees to look for people who may need help.
Nationwide, there were 33 separate tornado reports January 12 from the National Weather Service as of that evening, with a handful of tornado warnings still in effect in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. However, the reports were not yet confirmed and some of them could later be classified as wind damage after assessments are done in coming days.
In Selma, a city etched in the history of the civil rights movement, a tornado cut a wide path through the downtown area, where brick buildings collapsed, oak trees were uprooted, cars were on their side and power lines were left dangling. Plumes of thick, black smoke rose over the city from a fire burning. It wasn’t immediately known whether the storm caused the blaze.
With widespread power outages, the Selma City Council held a meeting on the sidewalk, using lights from cellphones, to declare a state of emergency. A high school was opened as a shelter, officials said.
About 40,000 customers were without power in Alabama on the night of January 12, according to PowerOutage.us, which tracks outages nationwide. In Georgia, about 86,000 customers were without electricity after the storm system carved a path across a tier of counties just south of Atlanta.
Damage was also reported west of downtown Atlanta in Douglas County and Cobb County, with Cobb County government posting a damage report showing a crumbled cinder block wall at a warehouse in suburban Austell.
In Kentucky, the National Weather Service in Louisville confirmed that an EF-1 tornado struck Mercer County and said crews were surveying damage in a handful of other counties.
While the rain eased in many areas, thunderstorms led yet another atmospheric river into the northern half of California and forecasters said the latest system would be followed by more storms the second and third weekends in January. From the San Francisco Bay Area down to Los Angeles, Californians had little time to rest between assessing damage from the last storm and preparing for the next.
At least 18 people have died in the storms battering the state. The figure is likely to rise, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on January 10 during a visit to the scenic town of Capitola, just up the Santa Cruz coast from Rio Del Mar, which was hard hit by flooding creek waters. Raging surf destroyed an iconic pier. (AP)