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Tornadoes pummel Alabama, killing at least 5

UPDATED: Thu., March 25, 2021

By Kevin McGill Associated Press

Deadly tornadoes roared through Alabama on Thursday, toppling trees, demolishing homes and knocking out power to thousands, part of a broad swath of violent weather sweeping across the Deep South. At least five fatalities and an unknown number of injuries were reported.

All of the deaths happened in eastern Alabama’s Calhoun County, Coroner Patrick Brown said. Farther west, in Shelby County near Birmingham, a family in the Eagle Point subdivision was able to escape from a home that a tornado had turned to rubble, firefighters said. Other homes in the complex were missing upper floors or roofs.

In the city of Pelham, also in Shelby County, authorities posted video and photos showing large trees blocking roads and damaged utility poles leaning menacingly over streets littered with debris from badly damaged homes.

“We can confirm local residential structures have been completely destroyed,” Shelby County, Alabama, Sheriff John Samaniego told The Associated Press in an email.

Search and rescue efforts were complicated by strong weather that continued to rake across the region. The Calhoun County emergency management agency opened shelters for the displaced and warned that storms were expected to continue into the night.

“We have been told to be prepared for another round of storms,” said Maj. Clay Hammac of the Shelby County sheriff’s department.

First lady Jill Biden postponed a planned trip to Birmingham and Jasper, Alabama, because of the severe weather, her office said in a news release.

More than 35,000 customers were without power in Alabama as of Thursday evening.

Forecasters warned of dangerous thunderstorms, flash floods and possible twisters from eastern Mississippi into western Georgia, and northward into Tennessee and Kentucky. Flash flood warnings and watches extended to the western Carolinas. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued an emergency declaration for 46 counties as the severe weather approached, and officials opened shelters in and around Birmingham.

Up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain — with higher amounts possible — is expected in northern Alabama, according to the National Weather Service in Huntsville.

State troopers closed all lanes of a section of Interstate 65 near Cullman after floodwaters covered the roadway. The highway was reopened later in the day.

Mississippi had a storm-related death on Wednesday. Ester Jarrell, 62, died when a large tree toppled over onto her mobile home after heavy rain soaked the ground, a Wilkinson County official told the Associated Press.

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