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At least 7 dead after destructive tornadoes hit Alabama

A 5-year-old boy was also killed in Georgia when a tree struck the car he was traveling in.

At least seven people are dead in Alabama after tornadoes struck the state Thursday, destroying homes and causing what Selma’s mayor called “significant damage.” A five-year-old boy was also killed in Georgia when a tree struck the car he was traveling in.

The Alabama deaths were in Autauga County, northwest of Montgomery, county Emergency Management Agency Director Ernie Baggett said. Six of the deaths were reported the day the tornadoes made landfall in the state, and one was reported on Friday.

He said a tornado struck the communities of Old Kingston and Marbury, with a suspected path of around 20 miles.

“We have about 40 to 50 homes that we know are either major damaged or destroyed at this point,” Baggett said.

In Selma, Mayor James Perkins Jr. said at a news conference that the city was assessing the extent of the damage and that no fatalities had been reported as of Thursday afternoon. He asked residents to submit photos of any damage they observe around Selma.

“I thought it was all over for me,” Bobby Green, who was in his car when the storm struck Selma, told NBC affiliate WVTM of Birmingham. His said his car was covered in so much heavy debris that he had to climb out of the passenger window.

Emergency response crews were on the ground to provide assistance.

“We have received a lot of devastating reports of damage,” the National Weather Service in Birmingham said in a statement. It said that storm surveys to confirm the tornadoes could take days.

Most streets in Selma are closed because of downed power lines and trees, according to a Facebook post from the city. Selma officials implemented a curfew from dusk to dawn, warning residents that the exposed power lines created a dangerous situation.

"All schools have reported that students are at school and safe. It is not safe at this point to go to the schools or allow the children to leave the school," officials said.

A tornado in Selma, Ala.
A tornado in Selma, Alabama, on Thursday.Caleb LeGrone via Facebook

Around 10,000 households and businesses in Selma remained without power as of 7:30 p.m., including most of the city center, Perkins said. He said crews were en route to ensure that cell service was not lost in the city.

With the power out, Selma’s city council held an emergency meeting outside, with audio recorded on a cell phone and streamed on Facebook. Some members could not attend due to extensive damage to their homes. The body allocated $2 million from its budget surplus for the disaster.

People shared photos and videos of damage around Selma, some showing entire streets where multiple buildings had seemed to be demolished. One user shared more than two dozen photos to Facebook, showing flattened homes, trees fallen across roads and even a car that appeared to be smashed by a downed power line.

A Twitter user posted video of what appeared to be a funnel cloud touching down from their vantage point on Interstate 65.

Flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport have been ordered to ground stop because of thunderstorms, the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday. The stop was lifted, but the FAA reported an average delay of 26 minutes for flights departing from Atlanta.

A spokesperson for the airport said the situation is being monitored and there has been minimal impact on Hartsfield-Jackson.

In Morgan County, the sheriff's office said numerous buildings were damaged during a storm. About 10 people were injured, but none appear to be life-threatening. Decatur, in Morgan County, saw overturned trucks and multiple downed trees. Police said there were minor injuries.

There were 42 reports of tornadoes Thursday, mostly in Alabama but some in Georgia and Kentucky, according to the weather service. Whether they were tornadoes, and how many there were, must be verified through storm surveys.

Major damage has been reported in Hale, Bibb, Sumter and Autauga counties in Alabama.

In Georgia, Butts County Deputy County Manager J. Michael Brewer confirmed that a five-year-old boy was killed when a tree struck the vehicle the child was traveling in. Another passenger in the car was injured and had to be transported to the hospital, Brewer said in a statement. The extent of their injuries was not immediately clear.

In Spalding County, Georgia, the sheriff’s office reported “massive amounts of trees” down, blocking roads and taking down power lines. The city of Griffin, which is in the county, suffered damage and urged residents to stay home.

One car was wrecked and turned on its side in a Walmart parking lot in Griffin, and another was lifted and ended up partially on top of another vehicle, video from NBC affiliate WXIA of Atlanta showed.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she was saddened to hear that six people lost their lives in her state.

"My prayers are with their loved ones and communities. We are far too familiar with devastating weather, but our people are resilient. We will get through it and be stronger for it," she tweeted.

Ivey issued a state of emergency for six counties Thursday: Autauga, Chambers, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore and Tallapoosa.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp also declared a state of emergency and said he was directing agencies "to respond with an all-hands-on-deck approach" to affected communities.

Almost 4 million people had been under tornado watches Thursday evening, but they later expired, according to the weather service.

CORRECTION (Jan. 12, 2023, 6:48 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the name of the NBC affiliate of Montgomery. It is WSFA, not WFSA. Additionally, a previous version of this article misstated where the Autauga County Emergency Management Agency is. It’s in Prattville, not Prattsville.