A giant storm system that swept across the southern United States killed at least six people and unleashed a tornado Thursday that ripped walls, roofs off homes and uprooted trees in Selma, Alabama, a city carved into civil rights history. a movement.
Brick buildings collapsed, cars were on their sides, and traffic jams littered the city center. Plumes of thick black smoke rose over the city from a fire. It wasn’t immediately known whether the storm caused the fire.
The National Weather Service said the “large and extremely dangerous” tornado caused damage as it tore through the historic city.
Selma Mayor James Perkins said first responders continue to assess the damage in his city.
“We have a lot of downed power lines. There is a lot of danger on the streets,” she said.
Just blocks from the city’s iconic Edmund Pettus Bridge, an enduring symbol of the voting rights movement, buildings were toppled by the storm and trees blocked streets.
Selma, with a population of approximately 18,000, is located approximately 80 kilometers west of the Alabama capital, Montgomery.
Images from the Selma Times-Journal showed the exteriors of a two-story building ripped away by the storm. Huge chunks of insulation and metal materials were wrapped around a tree trunk, and fallen tree limbs encased a sign that declared, “Welcome to Historic Selma.”
Northeast of Selma, Ernie Paget, Otoga County director of emergency management, told the Associated Press he could confirm six people were killed.
“It looks like they were two different houses that people were in,” she said.
Malisha McVay and her family drove parallel to the hurricane. She says she was less than a mile from her house before making a sharp turn.
I took video of the giant tornado, turning black as it passed through house after house.
“It’s going to hit the house and black smoke will come out,” McVeigh said. “It was very terrifying.”
Selma was a flashpoint in the 1960s civil rights movement. Alabama state troopers viciously attacked black voters as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. Among those beaten by law enforcement was John Lewis, whose skull was fractured. He went on to a long and illustrious career as a US Congressman.
More than 50,000 customers were without power in Alabama, according to PowerOutage.us, which tracks outages across the country.
Nationwide, there were 33 separate tornado reports from the National Weather Service Thursday night, with some tornado warnings in effect in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. However, the reports have yet to be confirmed, and some of them may later be classified as wind damage after assessments over the next few days.
The Weather Service issued a tornado emergency for several counties directly north of Montgomery as the storm system moved east.
“This is a life-threatening situation. Take cover immediately,” the weather service said of the reported tornado.
More tornado warnings were issued for Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee Thursday as the storm system moved through the region.
In Kentucky, the National Weather Service in Louisville confirmed an EF-1 tornado had struck Mercer County and said crews were surveying damage in a handful of other counties.
There have been reports of fallen trees, power outages, and other scattered damage from the storms that have engulfed the state.