AUTAUGA COUNTY, Alabama – Widespread destruction was reported in parts of the south as a severe weather outbreak spawned multiple tornadoes on Thursday. And as crews continue the arduous task of sifting through and clearing storm debris, families mourn those who died.
Storm damage was reported in nine states, with Alabama appearing to be hardest hit during the severe weather outbreak.
The deadly storms prompted the National Weather Service to declare a rare tornado emergency for parts of Alabama when a large and destructive tornado was sighted outside of Montgomery, Alabama.
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President Joe Biden on Sunday approved Alabama’s disaster declaration, which is now making federal funds available to those affected by the severe weather outbreak in Autauga and Dallas counties.
Autauga County, Alabama suffered extreme damage when the EF-2 tornado ripped through the community.
“Seven people lost their lives here in Autauga County, Alabama, and it escaped no one here,” said FOX Weather correspondent Nicole Valdes. “How painful these next few days, the next few weeks will be as they will not only mourn the loss of loved ones but will really be forced to search whatever is left of their homes to try and find anything that can be saved. “
‘WORST DAY OF MY LIFE‘: TORNADO DESTROYS SELMA KINDERGARTEN AND ATTACKS DOZENS OF CHILDREN
Selma, Alabama is directly hit by a deadly tornado
The deadly tornado first passed through Selma, Alabama, causing catastrophic damage throughout downtown.
Amanda McCloud said she is glad to be alive after the tornado she is working in was directly hit by the tornado.
“The worst day of my life,” McCloud said.
She said staff were at Crosspoint Christian Daycare looking for the children when the tornado approached. She said she and her colleague were bringing toddlers into her boss’ office when the power went out and the roof began to collapse.
She said she found a toddler in the rubble under some tiles, and when she returned the child to her colleague, she said she smelled gas and was working to remove herself and the children from the building. Not long after, she said, police and firefighters arrived and helped the nearly 70 children and staff take refuge at a nearby church.
Tornado kills 5 people from same family in Autauga County, Alabama
Valdes has been in Alabama since last week’s severe weather hit and says she has seen energy teams working to restore electricity to those who still have homes.
Of the seven people killed during the Alabama storm, five people from the same family lost their lives.
“This is absolutely heartbreaking,” said Jay Thompson, chairman of the Autauga County Commission. “I met with some family members this morning who have lost five family members. She explained that there is not much family left. So it wiped out entire families. You know, five isn’t a big number. But if five is all you have, that’s 100 percent. And that’s a lot.”
The tornado struck in a rural area of Alabama, and Valdes said there aren’t many options when it comes to storm shelters.
“So officials were telling me that sometimes during these tornado warnings, these men and women who live here just have their RVs to shelter in and hope for the best,” she said. “I hope these tornadoes don’t hit your home directly.”
Valdes said there are no county-run shelters in Autauga County, but they are working with local nonprofits and churches to give people an opportunity to know where to go before a storm hits.