At least seven people are dead in Autauga County after a storm system surprised Alabamians on Thursday (Jan. 12) with tornadoes that devastated homes, businesses and churches in different parts of the state.
At least two churches were damaged by one large tornado that ripped through the heart of Selma. Crosspoint Christian Church in Selma, which suffered extensive damage, had its daycare and preschool in session when the tornado hit, with about 70 children from six weeks to 5 years old present in the building. There were no serious injuries; only one baby had a small cut on her cheek and forehead, according to ABC 33/40 meteorologist James Spann’s Facebook page. Fairview Baptist Church in Selma also lost its steeple and suffered roof damage.
Selma has significant damage on a long track from west Highway 22 through the city going northeast and beyond, according to Mark Wakefield, state disaster relief strategist for Alabama Baptists. Two teams were out the day of the storms to help clear the roads.
Wadsworth Baptist Church north of Marbury also lost its worship center, and its other building was heavily damaged, Wakefield said.
He said disaster relief volunteers are already at work in some areas and organizing in others.
In Tallapoosa Baptist Association, disaster relief volunteers were working Jan. 12 to set up an incident command center at the associational office that would be the hub for work at the homes in that area.
“We are working to establish a location in Dallas County to work the Selma area also,” Wakefield said. “It’s a pretty significant operation at this point.”
Volunteers in Autauga County were out helping with search and rescue in the hours after the storms. At least 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the area, and all seven confirmed fatalities in the state happened there.
Ten to 15 injuries in Morgan County were attributed to a tornado that cut a 30-mile path through portions of Lawrence, Morgan and Limestone counties. None of the injuries are believed to be life-threatening, Morgan County sheriff’s spokesperson Mike Swafford told local news outlets, but numerous buildings were damaged.
Starting Jan. 13 Wakefield said he expects Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief teams to be working in all areas with damage around the state.
State of emergency
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has declared a state of emergency for six counties — Autauga, Chambers, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore and Tallapoosa — and is monitoring the situation to determine if that designation should be expanded to include others.
For more information about Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief, visit sbdr.org.