At least 5 killed as tornadoes rip through Alabama, destroying homes
Several powerful tornadoes tore through northern Alabama on Thursday, killing at least five people, injuring dozens of others and destroying entire neighborhoods.
The five confirmed fatalities were in Ohatchee, a town of about 1,200 people in the northwestern corner of the state where a twister ripped apart homes and downed trees and power lines, according to the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency.
Calhoun County coroner Pat Brown confirmed to the Birmingham News that four adults were killed in Ohatchee, three of them from the same family. A fifth adult was killed in the Wellington, Alabama, area. None were identified.
Rescue crews were tending to injured survivors and searching for additional victims, the agency said.
Photos posted on social media showed a line of buildings near Ohatchee that had collapsed or been ripped apart, with roofs sheared off, exposing furniture and other contents. A white church steeple, still intact, rested next to a destroyed structure.
Tens of thousands of people were left without power.
A police officer in Florence was struck by lightning as he set up road barriers, the police department there said. The officer was “conscious and responsive” at North Alabama Medical Center, Florence police said on Twitter.
At least two storms produced long tracking, violent tornadoes that swept across about 100 miles of Alabama on Thursday afternoon, said Chris Darden, a National Weather Service eteorologist in Birmingham.
More tornadoes may have touched down in the area, Darden said, but the number of twisters would be unknown until a survey can be completed in the coming days.
“The number is not as important as the magnitude of what has transpired,” he said. “We are seeing significant damage in several communities. There are many counties in central Alabama that have been hard hit with substantial damage.”