An apparent tornado roared through a housing subdivision in Alabama on Thursday, reducing one home to a pile of rubble and ripping roofs off others. Trees were pulled from the ground and thousands were left without power across a large swath of the Deep South as strong winds and heavy downpours swept across the region.
There were no immediate reports of injuries. The National Weather Service issued multiple tornado warnings in Alabama and surrounding states where forecasters said conditions were ripe for strong twisters that could stay on the ground for miles.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued an emergency declaration for 46 counties as the severe weather approached, and officials opened shelters in and around Birmingham.
Firefighters said a family was able to safely escape their toppled home in the Eagle Point subdivision of Shelby County, not far from Birmingham. Other nearby two-story homes were missing much of their upper floors. In the city of Pelham, authorities posted video and photos showing large trees blocking roads and damaged utility poles leaning menacingly over streets littered with debris from badly damaged homes. More than 20,000 customers were without power in Alabama.
Severe weather also hit parts of Mississippi on Thursday, a day after authorities reported a weather-related death in the southwestern part of the state. Ester Jarrell, 62, died when a large tree toppled over onto her mobile home after heavy rain soaked the ground Wednesday night, a Wilkinson County official told The Associated Press.
Along with Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama, parts of Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia were also at risk of strong tornadoes, the national Storm Prediction Center warned. Metropolitan areas in the path of Thursday's storms included Memphis and Nashville in Tennessee.
A flash-flood watch Thursday covered northern parts of Alabama and Georgia and portions of Tennessee and western North Carolina.
Up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain — with higher amounts possible — is expected in northern Alabama, according to the National Weather Service in Huntsville.
State troopers closed all lanes of a section of Interstate 65 near Cullman after floodwaters covered the roadway. The highway was reopened later in the day.