A severe weather outbreak in the Southeast United States on Thursday, January 12, 2023, has left at least seven people dead, several injured, and extensive damage in its wake. A series of tornadoes in central Alabama killed at least six people and in Georgia, a passenger in a vehicle was killed when a tree fell on the car during a severe storm.
At least seven people were killed and several were injured as severe storms and tornadoes swept through the Southeast United States on January 12, 2023.
The National Weather Service issued tornado watches for several states, and as of early Friday morning, there were 35 separate tornado reports.
The historic city of Selma, Alabama’s Dallas County, and its surrounding areas sustained some of the heaviest damage, with homes destroyed and trees uprooted, from a tornado classified by the National Weather Service as “large and extremely dangerous.”1, 2
While storm surveys are scheduled to being early Friday morning (LT), unofficial estimations indicate this was an EF-2 or EF-3 tornado that destroyed buildings, flipped cars and downed power lines.
The tornado made a direct hit on downtown Selma and lifted debris as high as at least 5 km (16 000 feet) into the air, based on radar and reports.
City officials have declared the area a “disaster area” and many roads are blocked with storm debris, making it difficult for emergency management officials to complete their assessments.
The tornado also passed close to Selma High School, but school officials later confirmed no students were injured. The school has since opened as an overnight shelter.
Multiple people were reportedly injured in the city, but there were no known fatalities as of Thursday night (LT).
“This is a disaster area. Powerlines are down and trees are down – this is really dangerous,” Dallas County Probate Judge Jimmy Nunn said.
In Autauga County, Alabama (about 65 km / 40 miles northeast of Selma) the same tornado cut a 32 km (20 miles) long path across two rural communities, damaging about 40 – 50 homes and killing at least six people, according to county officials.
Emergency management director, Ernie Baggett, confirmed that the fatalities were scattered across multiple homes in the Old Kingston community. He said that at least 12 people were injured severely enough to be taken to hospitals by emergency responders.3
Thousands of county residents were without electricity as of 15:40 LT Thursday, according to the Central Alabama Electric Cooperative’s outage map.
A gas station was damaged, debris was strewn about and trees were toppled in Wadsworth.
Autauga County Roads 57 and 62 also sustained heavy damage as power lines were brought down by the storm.
Damage was also reported in other parts of Alabama, with officials in Elmore County confirming that one person was injured and numerous homes were damaged.
Emergency Management Director Keith Barnett said that there was a “large swath of damage in the northwestern portion of the county.”4
In Northern Alabama’s Morgan County, a storm caused 10 to 15 injuries, none of which are believed to be life-threatening, and damaged numerous buildings.
Streets and fields were littered with debris and downed power lines in Decatur, a Morgan County community roughly 40 km (25 miles) southwest of Huntsville, as seen in pictures from the city police and the county sheriff’s department.
A siding was ripped off a Decatur hotel, and the National Weather Service preliminarily attributed the Decatur damage to strong winds.
Several preliminary tornado reports were made in the morning in Alabama, including in northwestern Alabama’s Winston County and western Alabama’s Sumter County, where building damage was reported.
In Winston County, northwest of Birmingham, there were reports of downed trees and power lines along several of the roads.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has issued a state of emergency for the counties of Autauga, Chambers, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore, and Tallapoosa.
The National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Alabama said it will begin storm surveys on Friday morning for multiple areas of tornado and wind damage.
“Multiple survey teams are being dispatched to survey areas near Selma in Dallas County, as well as in Autauga County. Survey teams will also investigate Sumter, Greene, Hale, and Winston counties,” the office said.
Outside of these areas, there are several other known areas of suspected tornado damage that include Tuscaloosa, Perry, Bibb, Elmore, Coosa, Tallapoosa, Chambers, and Barbour counties.
Due to the widespread extent and severity of damage in some cases, it will take several days for all damage assessments to be completed.
A tree fell on a vehicle during a possible tornado in Jackson, Georgia, killing a person in the passenger seat, according to Butts County Coroner Lacey Prue.
A freight train was pushed off its tracks in the same county, derailing three cars.
An apartment complex, a high school, and a shopping area were damaged in Griffin, Spalding County.
In Kentucky, three EF-1 tornadoes were confirmed by the weather service office in Louisville. The tornadoes touched down in Henry, Mercer and Boyle counties.4
According to PowerOutage.us, about 140 000 customers across Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas were without power as of Thursday night (LT).
At 08:00 UTC, there were 28 600 customers without power in Georgia and 23 100 in Alabama. North Carolina had 9 200 customers without power at the time, and South Dakota 8 200.
1 7 dead in Alabama, Georgia after tornadoes, severe storms ravage Southeast: Updates – USA Today – January 12/13, 2023
2 ‘Significant’ tornado causes destruction in Selma – WSFA – January 12, 2023
3 Autauga County storm kills at least 6 people, officials say: ‘That’s not all of them’ – AL – January 12, 2023
4 Governor says 6 people are dead in Alabama after severe storms and more than 2 dozen tornadoes hit Southeast – CNN – January 12, 2023
Featured image credit: Citronelle Mayor Jason Springer
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