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Tornadoes Hit Alabama And Georgia


Cleanup and recovery are underway this morning in parts of the Deep South hit by deadly tornadoes. The worst damage was in Alabama, where one storm killed at least five people. Rescue crews are out surveying the damage and looking for any victims who may be trapped in the rubble. Thousands are still without power. Mary Scott Hodgin of member station WBHM is in Calhoun County, Ala., east of Birmingham, where the five deaths have been reported. Mary Scott, thanks for being here.


MARTIN: Can you describe what you've seen today?

HODGIN: Yeah. So when I first drove up this morning, I got to one of the worst-hit areas, and there were power lines down everywhere in the road and, you know, on the side streets and big pieces of debris along the road. It's a really rural area. And so you know, there's a lot of fields and trees. And then you just sort of come upon this area where all those trees are down, and there's just widespread destruction, stuff everywhere - clothes, furniture, toys. There was a church that was destroyed, and I walked around it. And, you know, tornadoes are really strange like this. You know, the church had been hit, and the whole back wall was gone. But you can see the books were just perfectly lined up on the bookshelves, and the table and the chairs are just sitting there untouched.

So you know, the destruction is widespread. But folks are out here now. They're out in recovery mode. They're, you know, outside cleaning up, helping one another and trying to move forward.

MARTIN: Do we know much at this point about the five people who died?

HODGIN: We don't know a whole lot at this point. Four deaths were reported in Ohatchee, which is the town where I'm at right now, and we know that three of those who were killed were actually members of the same family. They ranged in age from 38 to 74, and they died in a wood-frame house. And then two others died in mobile homes. And there are a lot of mobile homes in this area. Those are always some of the worst places to be during tornadoes. And here in Alabama, you know, many of these rural communities, local officials have actually built large tornado shelters so people have a place to go during the severe weather.

MARTIN: I understand you've had some conversations with folks who lost their homes or at least were destroyed. What were those conversations like? What are they telling you?

HODGIN: Yeah, I mean, it's kind of surreal, you know. I spoke with a couple of people who live on Ragan Chapel Road - that was the area I was describing earlier - and there's a lot of destruction there. One man I spoke to, Roger Norris (ph), he and his family have lived in their home for the past 20-plus years. He was out there with several family members and friends cleaning things up, had a bunch of horses they were putting into some trailers. You know, they told me they heeded the warnings, and they left about 10 minutes before the storm hit. So they were not in their home when it hit. But when they returned, you know, the whole back of their house was gone. Stuff was all over their yard. Like, you know, very far from where their house is, you'd see their clothes and that kind of thing. He says he's thankful that his family's OK, but he says it's all pretty overwhelming. And he's not sure where to start, what to do next.

ROGER NORRIS: Only thing I can tell you is I don't know 'cause we don't know what we're doing or...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We're just taking it minute by minute.

NORRIS: We're taking it - yeah, just one at a time.

HODGIN: Yeah, Rachel, and he's not alone. There are literally hundreds of people just like him out here in Calhoun County.

MARTIN: Taking it one day, one hour at a time. Mary Scott Hodgin of member station WBHM in Calhoun County, Ala. Thank you.

HODGIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Scott Hodgin