CENTERVILLE, Ala. (NewsNation Now) — The National Weather Service says at least an EF-2 tornado may have hit Ohatchee, Alabama and surrounding communities on Thursday.
The storms claimed the lives of five people across Central Alabama, including four in the Calhoun County town of Ohatchee.
Authorities across Central Alabama have asked nonresidents to avoid heavily damaged areas to allow crews to assess the areas and begin cleanup efforts. Some homes in the hardest-hit areas were reduced to rubble, and streets were littered with debris and fallen trees.
Some residents were working, others were in their homes as tornadoes moved into their area.
One Alabama man said he received a text from one of his clients telling him to take cover as the tornado moved into their area.
“I got a text from one of my clients say ‘Get to shelter right now.’ I hid in the back stairs in the gym; the whole building shook,” he recalled. “I came out, and my truck was completely sideways, a window missing and a big dent in the side.”
Another man said he was watching the news with his family before they made the decision to leave.
“I don’t really know how to say it; we were just blessed, I guess. We sat here, and waited, and waited, and waited, and the news said it would be here in like 10 minutes, and we decided to go,” he said.
In the Shelby County city of Pelham, nearly 60 homes were hit, about a third of which were heavily damaged. No injuries or deaths were reported, according to Pelham authorities.
The NWS survey teams will continue to evaluate the damage in affected areas to determine the full strength of the storms.
NewsNation affiliate WIAT contributed to this report.