Teenager dead, at least 30 injured after tornado rips through Alabama town


FULTONDALE, Ala. (NewsNation Now) — One person is dead and at least 30 injured after a tornado carved a 10-mile path of destruction through an Alabama city north of Birmingham Monday night, leaving the area with crumpled buildings and downed trees.

Fultondale Police Chief D.P. Smith said a young man trapped in the basement of his home was pronounced dead at the scene around 3 a.m. Tuesday.

Smith said a tree fell onto the victim’s home, causing it to collapse. The teenager and his family took shelter in the basement and were trapped inside. Several other family members trapped in the basement were critically injured, while one escaped harm, Smith said.

“They were doing what they were supposed to be doing,’′ Smith said.

The teenager killed was Elliot Hernandez, a 14-year-old student in the ninth grade.

Jefferson County Superintendent Dr. Walter Gonsoulin said other students — they’re trying to determine how many — may be homeless now, and Fultondale High School was so heavily damaged that he doubts students can return to classrooms this year.

The tornado left a swath of destruction in Fultondale, a Jefferson County city north of Birmingham to Center Point, striking an area of Alabama that was severely harmed by a much larger tornado a decade ago.

Piles of furniture, appliances and tree limbs were strewn about and vehicles were moved — one car landed upside down against some tree branches on a large pile of debris.

As of Tuesday morning, NewsNation affiliate WIAT reported at least 30 injuries of which 18 were transported to a local hospital for treatment. Six people were pulled uninjured from damaged structures Tuesday morning.

Search and rescue efforts are still ongoing, said James Coker, the director of the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency.

“Our current goal is always life safety,” Coker said. “That is not only for the people who may have been injured but also the first responders who assist them.”

Several roads are impassable and power lines are down, City Council Member Billy Hughes told WIAT in a live interview.

“I know there are trees on some houses. We’re praying those people are OK,” Hughes said.

Coker said Interstate 65 near Walker Chapel Road is closed due to downed power lines and debris. He also said workers are currently removing obstacles from the roadways.

Coker said residents are being urged to remain alert and stay out of the area to allow first responders to continue operations.

tweet from EMA said several schools would be closed Tuesday for both traditional and remote students, including Fultondale High, Center Point High and Clay-Chalkville High.

A NewsNation report on the scene showed damage to a Hampton Inn hotel in Fultondale.

“The people of Fultondale took a hard hit last night — I’m grieved over the loss of life, injuries, homes & damaged businesses,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said on Twitter early Tuesday. “I offer my prayers & deepest sympathies & pledge the full support & resources our state has to offer. I am with you, Fultondale!”

The damage is being evaluated to determine the strength of the tornado, which hit the Fultondale area of Jefferson County, the National Weather Service in Birmingham said.

This tornado’s path of damage stretched for 10 miles, from Fultondale to Center Point, Alabama, FEMA said. Survey crews from the National Weather Service had yet to confirm details such as the twister’s estimated strength, but FEMA described it as a “large tornado.”

After blowing across Georgia, the storms were rolling over the Carolinas around dawn. Boaters on Lake Murray near Columbia were warned to seek harbor as winds of up to 50 mph were moving through, the National Weather Service said in a statement early Tuesday.

Fultondale also caught the tail end of an EF- 4 tornado that ripped across Alabama from Tuscaloosa to northern Jefferson County on April 27, 2011, killing 65 people and injuring 1,500 along a damage path more than 80 miles long, according to the National Weather Service.

Earlier in the evening, NewsNation meteorologist Griffin Hardy reported a tornado warning in the Fultondale area.

The Associated Press contributed to this article: Jay Reeves, Desiree Mathurin and Jeff Martin reporting.

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