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A massive rescue operation was underway in Bessemer, Alabama, early Tuesday after a tornado tore across the city, causing “major structural damage” and gas leaks, officials said.
The Jefferson County Fire Department had no immediate word on casualties, but residents reported hearing sirens in the aftermath of the tornado.
Wind shear in the area was 140 mph, The Weather Channel said.
Two apartment complexes in the south west of the city appeared to be the hardest hit, and the civic center was being used as an emergency facility.
“There are gas leaks, trees down, and power outages throughout the city,” the fire department said. “There is major structural damage from a tornado that passed through.”
Witnesses reported that front porches were torn off houses and trees uprooted. Resident Mackenzie Johnson posted on Twitter that the wind was so powerful that a plank of wood was embedded one foot into the soil in her grandmother's garden.