‘Extremely dangerous’ tornado tears across Southern US as storms hit | Weather News

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The National Weather Service received 33 tornado reports across southern states such as Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky.

A “large and extremely dangerous tornado” tore through central Alabama on Thursday, part of a series of storms that hit the southeastern United States.

No deaths have been reported so far but the devastating weather system destroyed homes, downed trees and trapped at least one resident in the debris as it tore through the historic city of Selma, center for the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

“A tornado has definitely damaged Selma,” former state Senator Hank Sanders told the Associated Press. “Of course, it hit our house but it wasn’t the front. It blew out windows in the bedroom and the living room. The rain is through the roof in the kitchen.”

The event was one of 33 tornado reports received by the National Weather Service on Thursday, including a confirmed touchdown in Kentucky and sightings near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the hub of busiest airport in the world for passenger traffic.

Warnings are still in effect for states like North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

The National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, issued a statement saying it had received “many devastating reports of damage” and asked residents to avoid areas of devastation until first responders can handle any emergency.

One Selma resident, Bobby Green, found himself trapped in his car during the tornado, as debris rained down on his roof. He told local news station WVTM that he tried to flee to a nearby store but the wind was so strong that it blew off the car door. It happened quickly, he said.

“I thought it was over for me,” Green explained. “There was all the debris on top of me and I had to climb out the passenger side window.”

A crumbling white wooden house in Selma, Alabama with corrugated iron roof tiles and other parts of the house spread across the facade
The National Weather Service called the tornado that hit Selma “large and dangerous” [Butch Dill/AP Photo]

Selma Mayor James Perkins announced that a city curfew would be in effect Thursday while the city assessed the damage.

“People were injured but not killed,” Perkins said. “We’ve got a lot of power lines down. There’s a lot of danger in the streets.”

About 50,000 people were left without power across the state, according to PowerOutage.us, a website that tracks outages.

SUV overturned and wrecked near county road.  He lies among dry grass and branches
Thursday’s tornado in Alabama uprooted trees and overturned vehicles like this sport utility vehicle near Prattville [Vasha Hunt/AP Photo]

Selma, a city of about 18,000 residents, sits in an area in the South known as the Black Belt, named in part for its African American history. It was there that Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders in the 1960s launched nonviolent marches, walking 87 km (54 miles) to the state capital of Montgomery.

Many of the sites associated with Selma’s civil rights history are fragile and in need of repair, including the 114-year-old Brown Chapel AME Church. Activists used the church in 1965 as a base of operations as they prepared for a march, which led to an event known as “Bloody Sunday”.

Police with nightsticks, tear gas and other weapons attacked the marchers that day, one of whom was the late John Lewis, a future US Senator whose skull was fractured in the violence.

The event was broadcast across the country and is believed to have led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act later in the year, which banned discrimination at the polls.

The historically Black church was in the midst of a $1.3 million renovation through the US National Park Service at the time of the tornado.

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