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Tornados sweep through Central Alabama, leaving at least 5 dead

Five people are dead in Calhoun County after a line of severe weather and tornadoes swept across Alabama, destroying homes and impacting lives.

A wave of severe weather swept across the state on Thursday bringing tornados, torrential downpours, strong winds, powerful thunderstorms and flash flooding. At least five people are reported dead in Calhoun County.

“Tragically, we are receiving reports of loss of life,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement while the storms were still impacting the state. “I offer my sincerest prayers to all impacted. Unfortunately, the day is not over yet. Y’all, please stay safe and vigilant!”

The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department said: “Significant damage was reported in the Ohatchee community and near Wellington and Pleasant Valley communities. Deputies have been responding to calls for service in these areas and we are checking on residents in the affected areas.”

Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade reports that five people are confirmed dead and more fatalities are likely as search efforts continue.

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“Multiple agencies are assisting us doing search and rescue and trying to locate and count everybody,” Wade told reporters. “Our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers go to the families, and we are going to do our best to let them know we love them,”

In addition to the damage in Calhoun County, numerous other communities across Alabama have suffered damage from the tornados and severe weather.

Pelham and Helena in northern Shelby County were heavily impacted when a tornado touched down destroying and damaging numerous homes.

The city of Pelham shared that: “The Pelham Rec Center will serve as a drop-off location for donations to assist with the recovery efforts in our community. The Rec Center is open from 7:00am-8:00pm weekdays.”

Items needed include: Tarps, Trash Bags, Cleaning Supplies, Hygiene Products, Feminine Products, Hand Sanitizer, Face Masks, Diapers and Wipes, Socks (multiple sizes), Ensure, Pillows and Blankets, Baby Formula, Pet Food, Gatorade, Bottled Water, and Laundry Detergent.

Oak Mountain High School in Shelby County “will serve as a collection and distribution center for basic needs in our community tomorrow and Saturday. Items can be dropped off and organized from 8AM-Noon on both days. Items can be picked up from 1:00-5:00 PM on both days.”

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The OMHS PTA said that: “The items we will be accepting are bottled water, toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, shaving cream, razor, feminine products), blankets (good condition), non perishable food items (peanut butter or cheese crackers, nuts, granola bars, canned goods, juices, jelly, dried fruit, trail mix, crackers, peanut butter, bread), and gift cards.”

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement: “We encourage everyone to avoid damaged areas so that first-responders can work safely and allow residents to begin the process of recovering from these storms. Some of the most damaged areas of unincorporated Shelby County were in the Eagle Point Subdivision, subdivisions along Highway 41 (Dunnavant Valley Road), subdivisions along Hwy 119 (Cahaba Valley Rd) near Heardmont Park, and homes along Highway 30 just outside of the City of Columbiana. At this time, no fatalities have been reported in the unincorporated areas of Shelby County; however, many residents have been displaced from their homes due to the damage caused by the storms.”

Sheriff John Samaniego said: “Today was a tragic day for Shelby County. We are here to support all of our citizens and the many other Shelby County municipalities who were also severely impacted by the storms. In the aftermath of these storms, we have seen the best of Shelby County. Neighbors helping neighbors. Businesses and kind citizens reaching out with donations of food and supplies. We will continue to canvass the county throughout the night to provide assistance as needed.”

Chilton County also suffered damage.

The Chilton County Sheriff’s office reports: “Cargile Creek area of Lake Mitchell sustained substantial damage due to a presumed tornado. Numerous structures were damaged or destroyed. So far there have been no injuries reported as a result of the storm. We have made a combined effort and have successfully searched the homes throughout the path of the storm. Deputies and Volunteers walked several miles in order to reach the damaged area. East Chilton Fire Marine 9 also assisted with searching homes from the water.”

The Chilton Sheriff’s Office said: “Over the years we have all seen the destruction tornadoes and other natural disasters can bring on communities. Over the course of two weeks. We have seen several of our own communities ravaged by storms. We want each and everyone affected by these events to know that our thoughts and prayers are with you. No matter what your belief is, we are all human and it is hard to see our fellow citizens suffer through times like these.”

There are also reports of damage in Bibb, Jefferson and Hale Counties.

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As of 9 p.m. Thursday, Alabama Power reports that about 28,000 customers did not have power statewide with 15,000 in the metro Birmingham area. Alabama Power crews are working to restore power as rapidly as possible.

If you have been displaced by the storms, you may contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) for assistance.

A number of schools in the affected areas will be closed Friday or will be doing e-learning only. Check with your local school system before leaving the house. Please be aware that utility crews and first responders are out along the roadways restoring electrical service and providing search and rescue services so please slow down. There are also downed trees and power lines. Many parts of the state saw torrential rains so floodwaters could rise in low lying areas throughout the day.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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