Alabama, Georgia declare state of emergency as tornadoes turn deadly
The two states issued the declarations following a myriad of tornadoes that tore through the South on Thursday, with one county reporting multiple deaths.
A tornado as seen from Interstate 65 in Pine Level, Alabama, northwest of Montgomery, on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023.
At least seven fatalities were confirmed following the severe weather outbreak across the southern United States that prompted Alabama and Georgia to declare a state of emergency.
Storms across the South on Thursday churned up a myriad of tornadoes, most of which were concentrated in Alabama where 25 of the 34 preliminary tornado reports from the National Weather Service were recorded.
By Thursday afternoon, the storms had turned deadly. Sheriff David Hill of Autauga County, Alabama, told AccuWeather that at least six fatalities were confirmed in the county in the Old Kingston area. However, officials warn the number could be higher as crews continue search and rescue operations.
A 20-mile tornado track was found to have stretched across the county, starting in the Old Kingston area and moving into the Marbury area, Autauga County Emergency Management Director Ernie Baggett told AccuWeather National Reporter Jillian Angeline.
"Both of those [communities] combined, it looks like we've got about 40 homes, maybe a few more, that have been either destroyed or [have] major damage," Baggett told Angeline.
The first tornado emergency issued for 2023 -- and the most recent since Nov. 4, 2022 -- was declared for the county Thursday afternoon as the storms rolled in, the NWS warning it was a "life-threatening situation." Numerous roadways in Joffre and Old Kingston suffered heavy damage, and severe damage was reported along County Road 68 in the area of US-31 near Prospect, Alabama.
Alabama Gov. Ivey Kay declared a state of emergency for six counties, including Autauga County, following the storms. The counties of Chambers, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore and Tallapoosa were also included in the declaration.
"We have already seen parts of the state rattled by this severe weather system, which is why I have issued a state of emergency," Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a tweet. Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency for Georgia later Thursday afternoon.
In addition to the devastation in Autauga County, multiple tornadoes were reported across the state, including a large and destructive tornado that tore through the Selma, Alabama, area Thursday afternoon.
Selma, located about 40 miles west of Montgomery, was in the path of a large and extremely dangerous tornado around 12:30 p.m. local time on Thursday. Emergency response teams were providing assistance and cleaning roadways as of Thursday afternoon, according to an online post by the city.
Residents across Selma were told to seek shelter and avoid traveling on area roadways. Downed power lines were also reported throughout the region.
"We are asking everyone to stay calm and stay in place until further notice," The City of Selma posted, urging residents to report any damage reports to 911.
Several tornado reports scattered across central Alabama as storms swept through the region. Significant structural damage was first reported south of Greensboro, Alabama, just before 11 a.m. local time Thursday. A tree was observed on a home in Greensboro, Alabama, shortly after. By around 11:30 a.m. local time, trees were observed down along Highway 219 near Oakmulgee in southern Bibb County. The tornado crossed US-82 southeast of Centreville, according to a report from the NWS.
The tornado shown in the video northwest of Montgomery, Alabama, was from the same supercell thunderstorm that caused tornado damage in Selma, Alabama, earlier Thursday afternoon, according to AccuWeather meteorologists. The storm formed near Eunice, Louisiana, early this morning and tracked over 500 miles.
This drone video shows the severe damage left behind by a tornado in Greensboro, Alabama, on Jan. 12. Multiple homes were left in ruins in the storm aftermath.
A second trail of storms started around noon local time when a tornado was reported along Highway 22 west of Oroville, Alabama. Another report indicated the Selma Country Club had sustained heavy damage which was followed shortly by a report of major structural damage along US-82 near Vida Junction.
"Selma has received significant damage from the tornado. Everyone has been asked to use 911 to report damage and stay away from downed power lines. City crews are out clearing right of ways and providing assistance," The Office of Mayor James Perkins, Jr. told AccuWeather on Thursday.
The City of Eutaw, Alabama, urged those traveling to stay away from the area as crews cleaned up. "Effective immediately, the City of Eutaw is closed for traffic and we encourage everyone to stay home off the roads and safe until we can clear the area," Eutaw Mayor Latasha Johnson told AccuWeather.
Multiple tornadoes from earlier on Thursday, including an EF1 in Mercer County, Kentucky, and at least EF1 damage in Boyle County, Kentucky, have already been confirmed by National Weather Service survey crews.
An additional EF 1 tornado was confirmed in Kentucky on Thursday by the National Weather Service, bringing the total number of confirmed tornadoes in Kentucky on Thursday to at least three.
No injuries or fatalities were reported in Mercer County, Kentucky, where two homes suffered extensive damage and several barns were damaged.
“[The tornado] could have been really bad but thankfully no one was hurt,” Mercer County Emergency Director Brad Cox told AccuWeather.
A metal building in Mercer County was picked up, rotated and dropped back on its foundation except it was facing the opposite direction, according to Cox.
Later on Thursday, multiple damage reports spanned across Georgia as the severe weather moved east. Severe structural damage was seen at a Hobby Lobby in Griffin, Georgia, along with additional damage to a Walmart and AutoZone in the area.
One of the storms in Butts County, Georgia, caused a tree to fall onto a car. According to the Butts County Sheriff's Office, the tree fell onto a six-year-old boy and his mother. The boy was killed, and his mother was in critical condition. The mother was later released from the hospital.
Additional reporting by AccuWeather National Reporter Jillian Angeline.
Want next-level safety, ad-free? Unlock advanced, hyperlocal severe weather alerts when you subscribe to Premium+ on the AccuWeather app. AccuWeather Alerts™ are prompted by our expert meteorologists who monitor and analyze dangerous weather risks 24/7 to keep you and your family safer.Report a Typo
Top StoriesMore Stories