March 26 (UPI) — A series of severe storms that spawned multiple tornadoes Thursday killed at least five people and caused damage to dozens of structures in Alabama, local emergency officials said.
Calhoun County Coroner Pat Brown confirmed the deaths to Al.com. Storms caused damage in the Ohatchee and Wellington areas of the county, east of Birmingham.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey urged residents to take shelter as the storms rolled through the state.
“Tragically, we are receiving reports of loss of life,” she said. “I offer my sincerest prayers to all impacted. Unfortunately, the day is not over yet. Y’all, please stay safe and vigilant!”
The same storm also tore a path just south of Birmingham around 12:30 p.m., according to AccuWeather, causing impacts in Pell City, Ragland, Eagle Point and Helena. Some homes were completely destroyed by the twister.
Al.com reported there were multiple injuries throughout parts of Shelby County after the storm snapped trees and damaged dozens of homes.
“Without a question, Eagle Point was the hardest hit on this side of the county,” Shelby County Sheriff’s Maj. Clay Hammac told the news outlet. “We are literally going house to house to check on everyone. There are some houses gone.
“Our priority at the moment is identifying those citizens in need of emergency medical assistance.”
The National Weather Service office in Birmingham issued multiple tornado emergency advisories Thursday afternoon an evening, an alert one step higher than a tornado warning, meaning there’s a radar-confirmed twister expected to pose a threat to human life.
The NWS warned of multiple tornados and/or funnel clouds throughout the afternoon and evening, including one that passed near its office. The service issued a new tornado warning just after 7 p.m. in Marengo County.
The storms, which spread Thursday afternoon from Mississippi to Georgia and up to Tennessee, were headed northeast, according to forecasters.
The Pelham Police Department said there’s been “extensive damage” in the Crosscreek community and it’s deployed emergency crews to assess.
“We cannot stress this enough: Please stay off the road and do not go into tornado-damaged areas,” the department tweeted.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham announced a suspension of all operation due to the severe weather and opened all campus storm shelters.