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At least 7 people died due to strong winds and tornadoes in the US south

SELMA, Alabama (AP) — A massive storm system that generates strong winds and spawns tornadoes has cut its way across the US South, killing at least seven people in Georgia and Alabama, where the tornado damaged buildings and threw cars onto the streets of historic cities. downtown Selma.

Authorities said a clearer picture of the extent of the damage and a search for more victims would emerge on Friday, when conditions are expected to clear up. After the storm began to subside on Thursday evening, tens of thousands of customers in two states were left without electricity.

In Selma, a city marked by the history of the civil rights movement, the city council used mobile phone lights as they held a sidewalk meeting to declare a state of emergency.

Six deaths were reported in Otauga County, Alabama, 41 miles (66 km) northeast of Selma, where approximately 40 homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado that stretched a 20-mile (32 km) path through two rural communities . said Ernie Baggett, the county’s director of emergencies.

At least 12 people were seriously injured enough to be taken to hospitals by rescuers, Baggett told The Associated Press. He said crews were focused on Thursday evening chopping down fallen trees looking for people who might need help.

“This is the worst thing I’ve seen here in this county,” Baggett said of the damage.

In Georgia, a passenger died when a tree fell on a car in Jackson, according to Butts County Coroner Lacey Prue. In the same county southeast of Atlanta, the storm apparently knocked a freight train off the rails, officials said.

Officials in Griffin, south of Atlanta, told local news outlets that several people were trapped inside an apartment complex after trees fell on it. A Hobby Lobby store in the city partially lost its roof, while firefighters elsewhere in the city freed a man who had been pinned for hours against a tree that had fallen on his house. The city imposed a curfew from 10:00 pm Thursday to 6:00 am Friday.

Nationwide, there were 33 separate tornado reports from the National Weather Service on Thursday, and Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina and North Carolina had tornado warnings for a while. Reports of tornadoes have not yet been confirmed, and some of them may later be classified as wind damage after assessments are made in the coming days.

The tornado that hit Selma carved a wide path through the city center, where brick houses collapsed, oak trees were uprooted, cars were on their sides, and power lines dangled. Clouds of thick black smoke from a burning fire rose above the city. It was not immediately known whether the storm had caused the fire.

Selma Mayor James Perkins said there were no fatalities, but several people were seriously injured. First responders continued to assess damage, and officials hoped to get a bird’s eye view of the city on Friday morning.

“We have a lot of power line breaks,” he said. “There are many dangers on the streets.”

Matty Moore was among Selma residents who took boxed meals offered by a downtown charity.

“Thank God we are here. It’s like what you see on TV,” Moore said of all the devastation.

A city of about 18,000 people, Selma is about 50 miles (80 km) west of Montgomery, Alabama’s capital. It was the flashpoint of the civil rights movement when Alabama State Troopers brutally attacked pro-vote blacks as they marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965.

Malesha McVey filmed a giant twister that turned black as it raced home after home.

“She would enter the house and black smoke would rise,” she said. “This was really scary”.

About 40,000 customers were left without power in Alabama Thursday night, according to PowerOutage.us, which tracks power outages nationwide. In Georgia, about 86,000 customers were left without power after a storm system cut a path through a number of counties south of Atlanta.

School systems in at least six districts in Georgia canceled classes on Friday. A total of 90,000 students study in these systems.

In Kentucky, the National Weather Service in Louisville confirmed that an EF-1 tornado hit Mercer County and said crews were looking into damage in several other counties.

Three factors — the natural La Niña weather cycle, a warming Gulf of Mexico likely linked to climate change, and years of west-to-east drift of tornadoes — combined to make Thursday’s tornado outbreak unusual and devastating, according to Victor Gencini. professor of meteorology at Northern Illinois University who studies tornado trends.

Jencini said La Niña, the cooling of parts of the Pacific that is changing the world’s weather, was a factor in creating the undulating jet stream that brought the cold front. But this is not enough for a tornado outbreak. What you need is moisture.

Normally, the air in the southeast at this time of the year is fairly dry, but the dew point was twice normal, probably due to unusually warm water in the Gulf of Mexico, which is likely affected by climate change. Gencini said that this moisture was caught in a cold front and everything was in place.

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