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Damage and miracles in Selma after killer tornado

Severe Weather Tornado
Stew Milne/AP
FR56276 AP
Power lines are downed on Chestnut Blvd. in Selma, Ala., Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, after a tornado passed through the area. Rescuers raced Friday to find survivors in the aftermath of a tornado-spawning storm system that barreled across parts of Georgia and Alabama. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

Damage and miracles. That’s how residents of the city of Selma are describing the aftermath of yesterday’s massive tornado strike. The website reports that over eight thousand residents of Selma woke up without power this morning. That’s on top of damage to homes and businesses in the town which is a focal point of Alabama’s fight for civil rights. Todd Prater is a reporter for Alabama Public Radio’s collaborators at the Selma Sun newspaper. He says one close call occurred at the Cross Point Christian Church

“There was actually almost a miracle, where the church was completely devastated, and in there was sixty children with the preschool daycare,” said Prater. “They were moved to a safe place, and only some bumps of bruises on one or two children.”

No deaths are reported in Selma, but at least seven fatalities were reported in neighboring Autauga County following the storm. Twenty-five people were left injured by the storm’s fury in the city known for the 1965 attack known as “bloody Sunday.” That’s where a posse attacked voting rights marchers attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on their way to the capitol city of Montgomery. Prater says the poorest part of Selma was hit by the twister, but that neighborhood wasn’t alone.

“It (the tornado) saw no color or financial boundaries,” Prater observed. “It went through some of the richest and some of the poorest. And, that’s where we’re trying to focus on some of the most who need the help the most. And, we at the Selma Sun and Black Belt Network are trying to coordinate some help efforts to get food and shelter and whatnot to people.”

Rescuers raced to find survivors in the aftermath of a tornado-spawning storm system that killed at least nine people as it barreled across parts of Georgia and Alabama and inflicted heavy damage on Selma, a flashpoint of the civil rights movement. About 100 searchers, both professionals and volunteers scoured the rubble in Autauga County, where all of Alabama’s tornado fatalities reportedly occurred. Authorities described widespread destruction that included people trapped beneath collapsed homes, uprooted trees sent crashing through buildings, thousands of homes left without power and a freight train that derailed amid powerful winds.

The National Weather Service, which was working to confirm the twisters. Suspected tornado damage was reported in at least fourteen counties in Alabama and five in Georgia. Many thanks to the Selma Sun and The Black Belt News Network for their collaboration on this story.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
Alabama Public Radio is proud to collaborate with the Selma Sun and its publishers Cindy Fisher, Brad Fisher, and Debrah Fisher. Past stories have included the renovation of the St James Hotel, the rescue of historic homes in Selma, and the announcement of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act by Congresswoman Terri Sewell at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge
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