Nine dead, more casualties expected after tornadoes rip through US Southeast

Nine deaths have been reported, as the result of tornados hitting the US, and the number is expected to climb.

The aftermath of a tornado is seen in downtown Mayfield, Kentucky, US, December 12, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/ADREES LATIF)
The aftermath of a tornado is seen in downtown Mayfield, Kentucky, US, December 12, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ADREES LATIF)

Rescue teams were searching for missing people in central Alabama on Friday and the death toll was expected to climb, local officials said, after thunderstorms and tornadoes damaged dozens of homes and knocked down trees.

Nine deaths have been reported in Alabama's Autauga County, emergency management director Ernie Baggett said on MSNBC.

County Coroner Buster Barber told Reuters the number of casualties would rise. The tornado caused widespread damage on Thursday, ripping off rooftops and hurling other debris.

"We are finding more bodies as we speak," he said in a phone interview. "We've got search teams out in the area."

In Georgia, a tree fell on a car, killing a 5-year-old child and leaving an adult passenger in critical condition as they were driving home, Butts County Coroner Lacey Prue said.

Tornado damage in Kentucky (credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Feldstein)Tornado damage in Kentucky (credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Feldstein)

The National Weather Service confirmed that at least five tornadoes touched down in the central Alabama region on Thursday, according to meteorologist Jessica Laws. The longest twister was tracked from southwest of Selma, Alabama, to the Georgia-Alabama state line, she said.

The extend of the damage

On Friday, the weather service said it had dispatched multiple damage survey teams to the field. The agency warned that gusty winds and cold wind chill temperatures will persist through Saturday morning.

mages from the severe storms showed widespread damage in Selma, a pivotal site of the U.S. civil rights movement. A tornado tore off rooftops and hurled debris. Multiple businesses and homes were destroyed, and trees were ripped from their roots.

Residents were visibly shaken by the experience, and some counted themselves lucky to be alive.

One woman began to cry as she described riding out the storm in her bathtub. She said the winds picked up her trailer, destroying everything inside.

Ray Hogg said he found shelter inside a country club.

"You could hear the roar, glass going everywhere," he said. "You could hear the roof literally being torn off right over our heads."

Officials confirmed four tornadoes touched down in Georgia, largely southeast of Atlanta but causing damage across the state, with winds peeling off roofs, knocking down houses and uprooting trees.

Just southeast of Atlanta, a freight train had three of its cars blown off the tracks, blocking traffic. No injuries from that incident were reported, officials said.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday declared a state of emergency for the six counties of Autauga, Chambers, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore and Tallapoosa.

Nearly 20,000 customers were without power in Alabama on Friday, according to PowerOutage.us. The storm also led to power outages in neighboring states of Mississippi and Georgia.