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Storm threat moving across Southeast after tornadoes and heavy winds strike five states

An estimated 32 million people will be under at least a marginal threat for severe storms Thursday, from southern Ohio into South Florida, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

In parts of the South, communities are taking stock of damage to homes and businesses across several states from severe storms Wednesday, with the greatest damage reported in Alabama and Mississippi.

At least 24 preliminary reports of tornadoes across five states were tracked Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.
In southwestern Alabama, a woman and her 3-year-old niece were injured, though not severely, when they were thrown from their home Wednesday as a suspected tornado hit the area in Clarke County, CNN affiliate WALA reported. The home was destroyed, the National Weather Service said, citing emergency management officials.

“This area is a disaster,” Ramond Barren, the injured woman’s brother, told WALA. “There’s trees down. It tore up two cars in the backyard.” Several other reports of tornadoes and damaged homes were made in other southwestern parts of the state.

In west-central Alabama, two tornado reports were made south of Tuscaloosa, where storms damaged at least 37 homes in the towns of Moundville and Akron in Hale County, according to county emergency manager Russ Weeden.

A confirmed “large and extremely dangerous” tornado had been spotted near Shelton State Community College just south of Tuscaloosa at 2:45 p.m., according to the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama. Storms damaged homes and blew out cars’ windshields

Further east, at least a dozen areas of damage are being investigated in the Birmingham area, according to the National Weather Service.

A possible tornado that touched down in Wayne County in eastern Mississippi damaged two homes and left roads blocked due to debris, according to Angela Atchison of Wayne County Emergency Management. No injuries have been reported.

Thursday’s greatest storm threats shift to the Carolinas

The greatest risk for severe weather Thursday — level 3 out of 5 — exists in most of coastal Georgia and eastern portions of South and North Carolina. That includes the Savannah, Myrtle Beach, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and Fayetteville areas.

Tornadoes, some of which could be intense, will be of concern along with damaging winds and large hail, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said. Storms also are expected in the Florida Panhandle, moving into central Florida through the early evening hours.

The Storm Prediction Center earlier said parts of the Carolinas were under a level 4 risk for severe weather Thursday, but the risk assessment for those areas was downgraded.

A roof of a home in northeast Lincoln County, Miss., is suspected of having been torn off by a tornado on March 17, 2021.

Schools and vaccine centers prepare for storms

In anticipation of strong storms moving into the area Thursday morning, schools in the Atlanta area moved to online learning — including Atlanta Public Schools and the nearby DeKalb County school district.
Covid-19 vaccine distribution has also been disrupted by the line of storms, with DeKalb County in metro Atlanta announcing changes in its schedules for Thursday. Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency mass vaccination sites planned to delay opening or alter their hours to avoid severe weather.

“Our first concern is the safety of the staff and patients at these outdoor sites,” said Chris Stallings, GEMA/HS Director. “We are asking for the public’s cooperation as we adjust the schedules, and want to assure those with an appointment that they will be rescheduled quickly if necessary.”

CNN’s Kay Jones and Brandon Miller contributed to this report.

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