Alabama Georgia pick up the pieces after deadly tornadoes

By KIM CHANDLER and ANILA YOGANATHANNEWNAN, Ga. (AP) — Chainsaws buzzed through fallen trees, stunned residents dug in the rubble that had been their homes, and neighbors rushed in to help on Friday after multiple tornadoes ripped a path of devastation across the Deep South. At least five people were killed. As many as 10 tornadoes — an estimated eight in Alabama and two in Georgia — carved a tremendous path of devastation on Thursday, uprooting 100-year-old trees, stripping roofs from houses, seriously damaging schools and businesses, and scattering treasured family possessions far and wide. All of the twisters were spawned by “supercell” thunderstorms, said John De Block, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham. In the western Georgia town of Newnan on Friday, among several communities west of Atlanta walloped by the storms, the smell of pine and the whir of electric saws filled the neighborhood as volunteers lugging their own tools helped carve up fallen trees. Charlene Watson’s apartment building was ripped apart by the tornado. She awoke to sirens and moved as quickly as she could to the basement of her building before the twister tore the roof off her building. Her son, Shawn Menard, waded through the debris, collecting the crosses that had lined Watson’s bedroom wall before it was ripped off and any other family mementos that could be salvaged.“Just be thankful for everything you’ve got, because you are not promised the next day. Nothing is, ” Watson said, holding back tears. One person died overnight of a medical emergency, said Deputy Chief of Police Mark Cooper, although it wasn’t immediately clear if the death was connected to the tornado. The person’s name was not released as officials tried to notify family members. The Red Cross was trying to find hotels for 15 people who had fled to emergency shelters. Officials found “heavy, heavy damage” in parts of the city’s historic district, Newnan Fire Chief Stephen Brown told a news conference. In Alabama, one of the twisters, which formed in the southwestern part of the state, carved up ground for more than an hour and traveled about 100 miles (160 kilometers), causing heavy damage in the city of Centreville, south of Tuscaloosa. De Block said the tornado dissipated in Shelby County, where another twister had already heavily damaged homes and businesses and devastated the landscape. The county is home to suburban Birmingham cities such as Pelham and Helena and the unincorporated subdivision of Eagle Point — all of which suffered heavy damage. Larry and Mary Rose DeArman sheltered in a basement closet as the tornado slammed into their Eagle Point house, collapsing it into a pile of bricks.“I could see the house splitting apart. … could see the sky, and then debris hit me in the head, ” said Mary Rose, 69. Neighbors lowered ladders into the basement so that the DeArmans could climb out. They both escaped serious injuries.

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