At least five people have died in Alabama so far as storms and tornadoes moved across the Southeast US on Thursday, threatening 30 million Americans with severe weather and leaving nearly 55,000 across the country without power.
The casualties were in Calhoun County, Alabama, where search and rescue efforts involving around 200 first responders remain under way.
On Thursday afternoon, a so-called “tornadic thunderstorm” travelled across upper Alabama through Georgia, a path of more than 100 miles.
“This has been the longest-track tornado I have ever seen in my life,” Glenn Burns, chief meteorologist at Atlanta’s WSB-TV news station, said on Thursday.
Many tornadoes associated with the storm were ranked as EF-4 or EF-5, meaning they could cause winds of more than 166mph.
The National Weather service has issued tornado warnings for the states of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, while forecasters warn that Tennessee and Mississippi could also experience high storm and tornado risk. The tornado warning remains in place until at least 8pm Eastern time.
A new tornado watch, in effect until tomorrow morning, was issued for Thursday evening for parts of west-central and north Georgia, including the city of Atlanta.
Among the twisters spinning off the storm is a tornado that’s roughly 35 miles from the city of Birmingham, Alabama, where the National Weather Service has issued a tornado emergency alert.
The state has seen some of the worst damage anywhere from the storms.
Severe damage occurred in the Eagle Point neighbourhood of Shelby County, Alabama.
“It was scary,” homeowner Carol Willis told CBS News. “The noise was unbelievable.”
Another already touched down in the city this afternoon, destroying homes and knocking out power for roughly 16,000 customers in the surrounding areas. 14,000 in the city of Pelham, Alabama, are also without power.
Other injuries include a police officer in Florence, Alabama, who was struck by lightning while setting up barricades.
“Significant and dangerous weather continues to impact portions of Alabama, and I urge all folks in the path of these tornadoes and storm systems to remain on high alert,” governor Kay Ivey said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the day is not over yet. Y’all please stay safe and vigilant!”
She declared a state of emergency on Thursday morning in more than 20 counties.
Storms and resulting flash flooding are expected to continue through Thursday evening, and could contain lightning and large hail.
It’s the latest round of storms after nearly 50 passed through the region last week.
Social media users shared videos of this week’s round of storms.
The National Weather Service suggested those in the path of the tornadoes be prepared with an emergency supply kit, take shelter in underground rooms, basements, and stairwells, and avoid exterior rooms, rooms with windows, and top floor rooms.
It also reminded people that emergency warnings are delivered via National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration radio broadcasts, local media, emergency alerts and weather apps, as well as official government websites and outdoor sirens.
A severe tornado struck Alabama in late January.
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