A vehicle flipped on its roof and covered in debris after a tornado touched down in Newnan, Georgia, early Friday March 26, 2021. (@@charityislove via AP)

Alabama, Georgia pick up the pieces after deadly tornadoes

NEWNAN, Ga. — Chainsaws buzzed through fallen trees, stunned residents dug in the rubble that had been their homes, and neighbours 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 neighbourhood 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 travelled about 100 miles (160 kilometres), 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.

Neighbours lowered ladders into the basement so that the DeArmans could climb out. They both escaped serious injuries.

All of the five confirmed storm-related deaths were in Calhoun County.

County Coroner Pat Brown identified them Friday as Joe Wayne Harris, 74; Barbara Harris, 69; Ebonique Harris, 28; Emily Myra Wilborn, 72; and James William Geno, 72, Al.com reported.

“For those families, it will never be the same,” Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade said at briefing Thursday evening.

Latasha Harris-Ramos told WBRC that her mother, father and sister all died when the tornado struck their home. Latasha, who lives in Virginia, tried reaching her family, and then her brother called and told her that her sister had died and they couldn’t find her parents. She got in the car and drove down immediately.

“I’m in a lot of pain. I’m in shock. I’m numb,” she told the station.

One of the victims in the hard-hit town of Ohatchee, a small community of about 1,170 people in eastern Alabama, was Dwight Jennings’ neighbour. Geno went by J.W. and had been a rodeo bull rider in his youth. He could make anything out of wood, and loved to angle for catfish, Jennings said. The two of them had planned to go fishing this weekend. Jennings spent hours searching for Geno’s dog. The animal was found alive.

Bad weather wasn’t limited to Georgia and Alabama. Officials warned of strong thunderstorms and potential flooding across the southern U.S., including in parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and the Carolinas. Emergency responders hospitalized one person in Sumner County, Tennessee, and the Nashville Fire Department posted photos on Twitter showing downed trees, damaged homes and streets blocked by debris. Thousands of customers remained without electricity in Alabama, according to poweroutage.us.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday extended condolences to the victims. She said President Joe Biden’s administration is in close contact with state and local officials, but hasn’t received any requests for federal assistance yet.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


A road is blocked by trees after a tornado touched down in the early morning hours causing severe damage in Newnan, Georgia, Friday, March 26, 2021.(Newnan Utilities via AP)

Debris scatters the landscape after a tornado touched down damaging multiple homes Friday, March 26, 2021 in Wellington, Ala. A tornado outbreak has ripped across the Deep South leaving paths of destruction. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Tornado survivors inspect the damage after a day of extended severe weather, Thursday, March 25, 2021 in Centerville, Ala.. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Damage is seen to residences at the Eagle Point subdivision following a day of extended severe weather, Friday, March 26, 2021, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Just Posted

Parents and students learned Tuesday what the coming school year will look like. It's pretty much back to business as usual, said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. School precautions include frequent cleaning, keeping students in the same groups where possible, planning the school day to allow for physical distancing and staying home when sick. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s largest school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

CALGARY — Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the… Continue reading

Cowboy Kicks, originally scheduled for May 5, will now take place Sept. 18. (Contributed photo)
Westerner Park’s Cowboy Kicks fundraiser moved to Sept. 18

A major fundraiser for Westerner Park and the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Josh Tarzwell tries to tip a point shot past Lethbridge Hurricanes goalie Car Tetachuk in WHL action Friday night at the Centrium. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels struggles continue, drop seventh straight to Hurricanes

Hurricanes score three power-play goals in 6-3 win

Downtown Red Deer patio restaurants have been busy this summer. Contributed photo
City of Red Deer expediting patio application process for restaurants

The City of Red Deer is allowing businesses to install patios prior… Continue reading

RDC Queens forward Camryn Wallan was named the 2020-21 RDC Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Wallan, Podgorenko named 2020-21 RDC Outstanding Athletes of the Year

Even with the cancellation of the 2020-21 Alberta Colleges Athletic Association, RDC… Continue reading

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is among those who have signed an open letter criticizing the government’s return to stricter health measures. (Advocate file photo).
Updated: Kenney tells UCP caucus COVID-19 dissent OK, breaking health rules means expulsion

15 MLAs released letter on Wednesday critical of new health restrictions

Owner of 4 Point Taekwondo Kevin Mejia holds a board as organizer and martial artist Kevin Olsen breaks it in Edmonton on Friday, April 9, 2021. One hundred martial artists from around the world, will be breaking a board for an event called "Break for a Breakthrough." The idea is for martial artists to unite and re-engage with the arts because they may have drifted away or lost enthusiasm as a result of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Break for a Breakthrough: Canadian hosts international martial arts demonstration

EDMONTON — Whether he’s breaking a wooden board, a clay tile, cement… Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Ediburgh, left, look on as Manitoba Beaver peaks out of his box at a July 14, 1970 ceremony in which Hudson's Bay Company observed an old tradition. The death of Prince Philip has reminded a small French village in Manitoban about how a royal visit half a century ago made the community the centre of frog racing in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Prince Philip’s frog-jumping legacy in a Manitoba French community

WINNIPEG — The death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has reminded… Continue reading

The Yukon provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. Yukon residents will head to the polls on Monday for Canada's fourth election held during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon residents set to vote in fourth election held in Canada during pandemic

WHITEHORSE — Yukon residents will head to the polls on Monday for… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole, former PM Harper speak on ‘build back right’ for pandemic recovery

OTTAWA — Top Tory leaders of the past and present will speak… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals set to debate universal basic income, pharmacare, OAS hike

OTTAWA — Grassroots Liberals have taken up Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s call… Continue reading

Students enter the Pierre Laporte Secondary School as secondary school students return to class full time during the COVID-19 pandemic in Montreal, Monday, March 29, 2021. Pandemic-fuelled frustration has some teens expressing anger in unhealthy ways after a year of missed social connections that would typically help them mature and regulate their emotions, says a psychiatrist calling for more education on coping skills as part of the school curriculum. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Teach students coping skills to deal with anger, including during pandemic: doctor

Pandemic-fuelled frustration has some teens expressing anger in unhealthy ways after a… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $25 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $25 million jackpot… Continue reading

jobs - T - 3-6-2020
Finding a job: 3 job search truisms you need to accept

A job search has many moving parts; your mindset is the most… Continue reading

Most Read