Severe storms sweep the Southeast

By Adrienne Vogt, Tori B. Powell, Elise Hammond, Matt Meyer and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 8:01 a.m. ET, January 13, 2023
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3:05 p.m. ET, January 12, 2023

Tornado caused "significant damage" in Selma, Alabama, mayor says

From CNN's Jason Hanna and Melissa Alonso

(Courtesy Mike Pitts)
(Courtesy Mike Pitts)

The city of Selma, Alabama, “has received significant damage Thursday from a tornado,” Mayor James Perkins Jr. said in a Facebook post.

The mayor asked residents to “please refrain from traveling the roadways and stay away from down power lines.”

“City crews will be out as soon as practical to clean up. In the meantime, stay safe and continue to report your damages through 911,” the post reads.

Severe storms are sweeping across the Southeast Thursday, already injuring several people in Alabama and leaving damage in several states with the potential for hours of more destruction ahead, authorities and forecasters say.

According to a Selma School District Facebook post, “At this time all schools are on weather lockdown. We encourage you to please refrain from attempting to check out students.”

“The Selma city school district is aware of the weather conditions. Schools have taken the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of all of our scholars,” the district said.

3:08 p.m. ET, January 12, 2023

Damage reports emerging from across the Southeast and the Ohio Valley

Storm damage is seen in Winston County on January 12.
Storm damage is seen in Winston County on January 12. (WBMA)

As storms progressed on Thursday, several preliminary tornado reports were made in the morning in Alabama, including in northwestern Alabama’s Winston County and western Alabama’s Sumter County, where building damage was reported, the weather service said.

Downed trees and power lines were reported along several roads in Winston County, whose communities are dozens of miles northwest of Birmingham.

Damage is seen outside a hotel in Decatur, Alabama, on Thursday morning.

“Motorists are urged to only travel roadways in emergency situations and to remain weather aware,” the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said in a series of tweets about the Winston County damage.

In northeastern Mississippi’s Monroe County, several rural buildings lay flattened or severely damaged after a storm passed through Thursday morning, according to video tweeted by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

No injuries were reported there, according to the agency, which said a tornado could have caused the damage. The weather service preliminarily said strong winds caused damage in the county.

Wind damage to trees and buildings also were reported in other locations across parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky before noon, the weather service said.

3:03 p.m. ET, January 12, 2023

More than 35 million people are under some level of threat of severe storms

From CNN's Jason Hanna and Melissa Alonso

More than 35 million people in the Southeast and the Ohio Valley – from Louisiana eastward to the Carolinas and from Kentucky south to the Gulf Coast – are under some level of threat for severe storms Thursday that could include damaging wind gusts and tornadoes, the Storm Prediction Center said.

By early afternoon, tornado watches covered parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, the western Florida Panhandle and far western North Carolina with various expirations.

Thursday’s greatest risk of severe storms – an “enhanced” risk, or level 3 of 5 – is predicted for about 9.5 million people over parts of Alabama and Georgia, including the Birmingham, Montgomery and Atlanta areas, the prediction center said.

Regarding timing: Severe storms are especially possible in the Birmingham and Montgomery areas by early afternoon, and the Atlanta area in the late afternoon.