FULTONDALE, Ala. (AP) — A teenager huddling in his basement was killed and several of his family members were critically injured when a tornado blew a tree onto their home in Alabama and it collapsed on top of them, police said Tuesday.
The tornado left a swath of destruction Monday night in Fultondale, a Jefferson County city north of Birmingham. Piles of furniture, appliances and tree limbs were strewn about and vehicles ended up in awkward positions as if a child had flung his collection of Matchbox cars into the air. One car landed upside down against some tree branches on a large pile of debris.
Police Chief D.P. Smith said several other family members trapped in the basement were critically injured, while one escaped harm. The teen was pronounced dead at the scene Tuesday morning.
“They were doing what they were supposed to be doing,” the chief said.
Fultondale Fire Chief Justin McKenzie said 17 people have since been hospitalized and 11 others were treated on scene, WVTM-TV reported.
Injuries range from minor to severe but search and rescue efforts are still ongoing, said James Coker, the director of the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency.
Coker said Interstate 65 near Walker Chapel Road is closed due to downed power lines and debris. He also said workers are currently removing obstacles from the roadways. Other homes and buildings were damaged in the storm, including a Hampton Inn hotel, which sustained significant structural damage.
A tweet from EMA said several schools would be closed Tuesday for both traditional and remote students, including Fultondale High, Center Point High and Clay-Chalkville High.
“The people of Fultondale took a hard hit last night — I’m grieved over the loss of life, injuries, homes & damaged businesses,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said on Twitter early Tuesday. “I offer my prayers & deepest sympathies & pledge the full support & resources our state has to offer. I am with you, Fultondale!”
The tornado’s path of damage stretched for 10 miles (16 kilometers), from Fultondale to Center Point, Alabama, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in its daily operations briefing Tuesday. Survey crews from the National Weather Service had yet to confirm details such as the twister’s estimated strength, but FEMA described it as a “large tornado.”
Fultondale is a Birmingham suburb that’s home to about 9,000 people, according to Census figures.
The area was heavily damaged nearly 10 years ago on April 27, 2011, when a deadly F-4 tornado cut an 80-mile (129-kilometer) path of destruction through the state from Tuscaloosa to north of Birmingham, killing 65 people and injuring 1,500. The massive tornado had a damage path of 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) wide as it neared Fultondale.
After blowing across Georgia, the storms were rolling over the Carolinas around dawn. Boaters on Lake Murray near Columbia were warned to seek harbor as winds of up to 50 mph (80 kph) were moving through, the National Weather Service said in a statement early Tuesday.