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Tornadoes roll across 5 southern states causing at least 5 deaths and heavy destruction

A wave of tornadoes rolled across five southern states on Thursday, leaving at least five people dead and inflicting heavy damage in its wake, according to officials.

Early Friday, the city of Newnan, Georgia, reported damage in and around its historic downtown area due to a tornado and repair crews were working on the scene to clear impacted areas. The National Weather Service had warned the Newnan tornado was a “particularly dangerous situation” and had told residents to take cover.

The town was “hit hard and there is significant damage all over the city,” Gina Weathersby, Community Relations Manager for Newnan Utilities told CNN. The town is located about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta.

Earlier in the day, at least five deaths and multiple injuries were reported in Calhoun County, Alabama, after a tornado passed through the area Thursday afternoon, Sheriff Matthew Wade told CNN.

The town of Pelham, Alabama, saw damage to about 60 homes, Pelham Fire Chief Michael Reid said.

“We’re also very grateful that of all the damage done, nobody was hurt,” Pelham City Manager Gretchen DiFante said. “We’re very thankful for that this evening.”

In all, there were 22 tornado reports across Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi — and at least 10 million people were under tornado watches at 2:20 am ET.

At least 5 dead in Alabama

Fourteen tornadoes alone were reported in Alabama on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

In Calhoun, three adults from the same family were killed when one hit the town of Ohatchee, about 60 miles northeast of Birmingham, according to Calhoun County Coroner Pat Brown. And one man in a mobile home in Ohatchee also died. The fifth death in the county was a woman in a mobile home in Wellington, according to the coroner.

In Pelham, Cesar Villaseñor, 22, was in a van with his boss when they were caught in a potential tornado. They were trying to get to shelter at his boss’ house, Villaseñor said.

“We were literally half a mile from his house and everything was all clear. Out of nowhere, it starts raining and I started recording — everything starts going to hell basically.” In a video Villaseñor shared, debris is seen flying through the air, uprooted trees lie on the ground and houses are damaged.

“I was like, this is probably it. I’m probably dead,” he said. “At one point, the van was shaking really bad to the point that I thought it was like to flip over. I was just shaking. I couldn’t control my hands.”

Alex McNair, owner of Corefit Strong in Pelham, Alabama, told CNN his gym was practically destroyed by a tornado.

“The roof was lifted off, bricks were thrown through the windows of our garage doors, debris tossed inside the gym, our HVAC unit was ripped off our roof, glass thrown throughout the gym, our flooring is destroyed, along with other roof and structural damage to other parts of the building,” McNair wrote to CNN. But, he said what was most important is that no one is hurt.

Home ripped off foundations

There was a devastating scene in a neighborhood in Shelby County, southeast of Birmingham.

A tornado had ripped a house completely off its foundation and deposited it 100 feet from where it was originally located.

Residents were rummaging through the debris with flashlights in the dark in hopes of salvaging some of their possessions. Broken furniture and a red tractor all lay piled in a heap.

This was also an animal rescue center housing over 50 horses and several dozen goats and sheep. With the fences gone the animals were wandering around in a disoriented way. There is now a massive effort to save these animals.

All the trees around the home have been obliterated. And the two elderly people that lived there were with unknown injuries to a local veterans hospital, officials said.

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