The storms weakened before they reached Tuscaloosa, where winds uprooted trees and downed power lines. At least 11 storm-related deaths were reported across the South as of early Saturday night.
(TNS) — A series of fast-moving thunderstorms crossed several southern states Saturday spawned a tornado near Carrollton, claiming the lives of three people in what the sheriff called "a devastating day for Pickens County."
Three people were killed when the tornado touched down in the Settlement community, just west of Carrollton, around 11 a.m.
"This was a very powerful storm these people were subjected to," Sheriff Todd Hall said "This is a tragic loss. People have suffered a lot of loss, including life."
The storms weakened by the time they reached Tuscaloosa, where winds uprooted trees and downed power lines before moving east.
At least 11 storm-related deaths had been reported across the South as of early Saturday night. The Pickens County victims were identified as Albert Barnett, 85, his wife Susan Barnett, 75, and Tyrone Spain, 51.
Resident Larry Jones took cover in his home as the tornado passed.
"I heard everything just coming apart. We just laid down and listened," he said. "I thought my life was over with."
Jones searched his neighbors' homes before the first responders arrived, locating victims who didn't survive.
"I had to do what I would want someone to do for my family," he said.
Although everyone who lived in the area was accounted for, rescue workers conducted a methodical door-to-door search of the area.
"We still need to go through and do our due diligence to ensure no one is out there in need of assistance at this time," Hall said Saturday afternoon.
Many of the brick, wood-frame and mobile homes in the area were destroyed or heavily damaged. Police and volunteer fire departments from across the county sent personnel and equipment to help clear debris and search for potential victims.
Radar indicated the tornado touched down a little after 11 a.m. NWS teams are expected to canvas the area to officially document the storm's path and strength.
In Tuscaloosa, damage was scattered throughout the county, with reports coming in from Fosters, Northport, Cottondale and close to the Jefferson County line.
"We dodged a bullet," said city communications director Richard Rush.
Heavy winds knocked trees onto roofs in the Druid Hills area and limbs crashed into power lines, leaving many without power after the storms passed through around noon. As of 5 p.m., Alabama Power said 2,700 customers in the Tuscaloosa area were without service.
Around 7,500 were without power at the height of the outages, said Tuscaloosa County Emergency Management Agency director Nick Lolley.
The EMA office received reports of a tree on a vehicle in Abernant and down in front of Huntington Elementary School, near the Coaling Volunteer Fire Department and between Keenes Mill and Wire roads.
There also were trees and power lines down near Hazelridge Lane and Clements Road in Cottondale, Stanley Road in Brookwood, Cherokee Hills, Coker, Lake Nicol Park and many areas of Northport.
Storm shelters in Tuscaloosa opened at 9 a.m., an hour earlier than planned, and closed at 1:30 p.m.
Folks, PLEASE take these warnings seriously! We have now confirmed 3 fatalities near Carrollton in Pickens County. #alwx
— NWS Birmingham (@NWSBirmingham) January 11, 2020
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