At least 9 dead after multiple tornadoes, severe winds tear through South

Posted at 4:51 PM, Jan 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-13 17:51:06-05

ABC NEWS — A massive storm system sweeping across the United States struck the South on Thursday with severe winds and numerous tornadoes, killing at least nine people in Alabama and Georgia.

In Alabama's Autauga County, northwest of Montgomery, at least seven people died due to the severe weather, state officials said. "Multiple" other people were hospitalized and about 40 to 50 homes were either damaged or destroyed, the county emergency management agency told ABC News.

In Georgia's Butts County, southeast of Atlanta, a 5-year-old boy died after a tree fell on a car he was in, state officials told reporters on Friday. One of the boy's parents was in critical condition following the incident, officials said.

A Georgia Department of Transportation employee was also killed by falling debris while responding to storm damage, state officials said.

An outbreak of at least 35 tornadoes was reported across Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee on Thursday. The same storm system hit the West Coast earlier this week with torrential rain, heavy snow and gusty wind, causing widespread flooding in drought-ravaged California.

"We know we've had multiple tornadoes across the state. The damage is literally statewide in different places," Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said during a press briefing on Friday. "This storm moved all across our state."

In Georgia, Troup County, near the Alabama border, and Spalding County, in the center of the state, suffered some of the heaviest damage, according to James Stallings, the state's emergency management director. "Widespread injuries" were also reported in multiple parts of the state, he said.

Some people took refuge beneath their homes only to have the structures collapse around them, prompting rescue crews to "dig homes off of folks," Stallings said. Some people are still unaccounted for, according to Kemp, who noted they "could be sheltering somewhere else or could be waiting to be cut out" from underneath their homes.

The National Weather Service confirmed at least three EF-1 tornadoes touched down in Kentucky on Thursday, with one wielding winds of up to 110 miles per hour.

In Alabama, the NWS also confirmed an EF-2 tornado struck Winston County, northwest of Double Springs. At least EF-3 damage has been confirmed in Autauga County and EF-2 damage has been confirmed in Selma, both caused by the same storm, though "it is not yet known if there was a continuous path of damage," the NWS said.

The Selma Mayor's Office said the twister delivered "significant damage" to the city's historic downtown.

Most of Selma's streets are closed due to downed power lines and trees. But all students are reported to be safe and at their schools, according to the mayor's office.

Selma, a famous focal point of the civil rights movement, is located in central Alabama and has a population of about 17,000.


Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency for six counties -- including Dallas County, which encompasses Selma, and Autauga County -- "that were in the path of Mother Nature's wrath," the governor tweeted Thursday evening.

Ivey said she will be monitoring the severe weather system "to determine if an expanded state of emergency is needed."