At least 35 possible tornado touchdowns were reported across several states in the South, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Tornado damage was reported in at least 14 counties in Alabama and five in Georgia, said the National Weather Service, which is still working to confirm the twisters.
Seven deaths were recorded in Autauga County, Alabama, 41 miles northeast of Selma, where an estimated 40 homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado that cut a 20-mile path across two rural communities, said Ernie Baggett, the county’s emergency management director. At least 12 were taken to hospitals, Baggett said, including several mobile homes that were launched into the air.
“They weren’t just blown over,” he said. “They were blown a distance.”
A tornado that hit Selma cut a wide path through the downtown area. Brick buildings collapsed, oak trees were uprooted, cars were tossed onto their sides and power lines were left dangling, Selma is about 50 miles west of Montgomery, the Alabama capital, and was a flashpoint of the civil rights movement.
One tornado cut a 20-mile path across two rural Alabama communities Thursday before the worst of the weather moved across Georgia on a track south of Atlanta.
Calling it a “tragic night,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said they had two fatalities: one state employee responding to storm damage, and a five-year-old who was killed by a tree falling on a vehicle.
“We got a lot of state workers out there in dangerous situations, a lot of our private utility partners, and others that are trying to restore power,” Kemp said. “It’s a very dangerous environment, certainly last night, and still is today. We literally have teams responding all over the state where there is damage.”
A lot of roads are blocked, Kemp said, which is preventing crews from restoring power.
“We ask everybody to be patient,” the governor said. “We got every resource that we can possibly put on the ground, it’s just going to take us a while because it’s dangerous work, d there’s a lot of it to do.”
Officials in Georgia were not yet able to estimate storm damage as of Friday afternoon.
As of Friday afternoon, 35,124 people were without power in Georgia and Alabama, according to Poweroutage.us, which tracks outages nationwide.
This story is developing. Refresh for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.