Survivors took cover in tubs and shipping containers as tornadoes struck

Saturday, January 14, 2023, David Holton stands inside his garage in Autauga County, Alabama. The Alabama engine technician sought cover in a shipping container behind his garage as a tornado from Thursday’s ferocious storm destroyed his shop and killed two of his neighbors along its trail of destruction across Alabama and Georgia. AP/Sharon Johnson

An Alabama engine technician sought refuge in a shipping container as a tornado from a strong storm destroyed his shop and killed two of his neighbors across Alabama and Georgia.

The tragic tales of David Hollon and other survivors of Thursday’s storm are emerging as residents search through the debris caused by tornadoes and ferocious winds, which killed at least nine people.

In rural Autauga County, Alabama, where at least seven people have died, Hollon and his employees witnessed a monster tornado barreling toward them. They needed to reach a safe haven immediately.

Hollon explained that they collided with a concrete-anchored metal shipping container in the back of his garage. Once inside, Hollon began dialing his neighbor’s number urgently. As they heard the garage being torn apart by the storm, however, the call continued to go to voicemail.

After the storm cleared, they emerged to see his neighbor’s dead in the street, he added. A family member reported that another neighbor along the road had perished.

“I suppose we did considerably better than most. “We’re damaged, but we’re still here,” Hollon, 52, said during a Saturday interview as he strolled through a field filled with damaged vehicles, smashed glass, snapped tree branches, and other debris.

On Saturday, January 14, 2023, in White City, Autauga County, a death happened along County Road 140 as a result of a tornado that ripped through Central Alabama earlier in the week. Friends and relatives assist in the recovery process. Ala. Butch Dill / AP

Leighea Johnson, a 54-year-old worker at a cafeteria who resides in Autauga County, stood among the debris of her trailer home. She identified her bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen as being buried behind a large amount of rubble.

Her backyard swing set was now across the street, tangled amid some trees. Her outdoor trampoline was wrapped around another pair of trees in the front yard of a neighbor.

“The trailer should be here, and now it’s not,” said Johnson, pointing to a debris-covered slab. “And it is all over the place now.”

The storm brought violent twisters and winds to Alabama and Georgia, which uprooted trees, launched mobile homes into the air, derailed a freight train, overturned automobiles, fractured utility poles, and brought down power lines, leaving thousands without energy. According to the National Weather Service, at least 14 counties in Alabama and 14 counties in Georgia reported suspected tornado damage.

On Saturday, January 14, 2023, in Marbury, Alabama, Leighea Johnson surveys the ruins of her home, which was destroyed by a tornado that tore through Central Alabama earlier this week. Her daughter and grandson, who were in the house and sustained minor injuries, also survived. Butch Dill / AP

Early on Sunday morning, President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Alabama and ordered government funds to assist with relief efforts.

Officials in Autauga County reported that the tornado produced winds of at least 136 mph (218 kph) and caused devastation equivalent with an EF3 tornado, two categories weaker than the most powerful category. At least a dozen individuals were hospitalized, and approximately 40 residences were demolished or severely damaged, including mobile homes that were catapulted into the air, according to county authorities.

The residents reported chaotic scenes as the storm approached. As the gusts grew stronger, individuals scurried into shelters, bathtubs, and sheds. In one instance, a rescue crew discovered five individuals unhurt and trapped inside a storm shelter after a wall from an adjacent house had fallen upon them.

Saturday, January 14, 2023, in Marbury, Alabama, workers clear fallen trees as they continue to recover after a tornado that blasted across Central Alabama earlier this week. As rescue personnel extracted survivors from the aftermath of a violent storm system that spawned tornadoes, stunned locals attempted to recover their valuables. Butch Dill / AP

Before the heaviest of the weather moved south of Atlanta across Georgia, downtown Selma received considerable damage. There were no reported deaths in Selma.

Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia stated that the damage was felt statewide. More than 100 homes were damaged in Troup County along the Georgia-Alabama border, where some of the worst reports originated.

Kemp stated that an employee of the state transportation department was killed while reacting to storm damage. A 5-year-old child riding in a vehicle was killed by a falling tree in Butts County, Georgia, according to authorities. At least 12 individuals were treated at a hospital in Spalding County, south of Atlanta, where at least two tornadoes were reported to have touched down.

Johnson, a cafeteria employee in Autauga County, reported that she was at work when she discovered that the storm would pass directly over her residence. She immediately alerted her daughter, who was at home with her 2-year-old grandson.

Johnson recounted in a trembling voice, “I called my daughter and said, ‘You do not have time to get out, you’ve got to get somewhere now,” “And she stated, ‘I’m entering the tub. If the house is a mess, you can find me in the bathtub area.”

The call was ended. Johnson repeatedly called back. When Johnson finally reunited with her daughter, she reportedly told her, “The house is gone, the house is gone.”

Johnson stated that her daughter and grandson had some cuts and bruises, but were overall well following a trip to the emergency department.

Johnson stated, “I brought her home and tried not to let go of her after that,” “I lost a lot of worldly possessions and I have no insurance, but I don’t care because my child is safe.

That is the only thing that counts to me.

Saturday, January 14, 2023, in Marbury, Alabama, John Henderson sorts through wreckage in search of personal belongings as residents recuperate after a tornado that blasted across Central Alabama earlier this week.

As rescue personnel extracted survivors from the aftermath of a violent storm system that spawned tornadoes, stunned locals attempted to recover their valuables.


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