Brutal Tornadoes Strike the Southeast, Killing At Least Nine

Selma, Alabama - January 13: Damage is seen the day after a tor
Selma, Alabama - January 13: Damage is seen the day after a tor

Damage is seen the day after a tornado hit Selma, Ala. on January 12, 2023. Credit - Cameron Carnes—The Washington Post/Getty Images)

A series of tornadoes unleashed lethal weather across the Southeastern U.S. this week, killing at least nine people—seven in Alabama and two in Georgia—including a five-year-old boy. The search for victims has continued since the storms struck hardest on Thursday, destroying homes and infrastructure, and cutting out power for thousands in both states.

Seven of the reported deaths were in Alabama’s Autauga County, northwest of Montgomery. In Butts County, Georgia, the five-year-old boy who died was killed when a tree fell on top of the car he was in. A state employee working on storm response efforts was also killed in Georgia.

“Our entire family is heartbroken over this tragedy. As we continue to monitor state response to these storms, we are praying for this family as they mourn this terrible loss,” Georgia governor Brian Kemp tweeted Thursday.

The National Weather Service had 50 possible tornado reports on Thursday, spanning Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. In Autauga County, the tornado that hit was rated EF-3 status, meaning it had winds between 136 – 165 mph. EF-2 tornadoes, whose wind speeds start at 111 mph, also hit central Georgia and the cities of Selma and Greensboro.

Rescue efforts continue for people who may have been trapped in damaged buildings, especially in Autauga County where at least 40 homes were utterly destroyed and deemed uninhabitable. Both Alabama and Georgia governors have declared a state of emergency, focusing on the worst affected municipalities and organized state response measures.

The storms also brought widespread power outages across Georgia and Alabama, leaving about 40,000 electric customers without power until Friday. As of Saturday morning, more than 14,000 customers still lack power in Georgia.

Damage from the storms could take days to evaluate, with high winds pummeling power lines, trees and all sorts of buildings. Marking the latest of many deadly weather events to affect the country in recent months, experts point to the climate crisis exacerbating severe weather phenomena, from hurricanes to snowstorms, to wildfires and the ongoing flooding in California