Extremely warm temperatures and an unstable weather pattern brought Christmas Day tornadoes and flooding to Alabama, damaging homes and leaving hundreds without electricity.
The storms that ravaged the state were the latest in a wave of severe weather that’s hammered the South during Christmas week.
The funnel was spotted by witnesses outside Birmingham around 5 p.m. An hour later the National Weather Service confirmed that first responders were on the scene along Jefferson Avenue, a working class neighborhood 10 miles from downtown Birmingham.
Several houses on the block had been destroyed and partially blown into the street, Al.com reported Saturday.
Mayor William Bell told Fox6 News one person had been hospitalized.
Luckily, Bell said there have been no reports of missing people, the station reported.
The city reached out to the Red Cross to assist residents whose homes were damaged.
Utility workers turned off electricity and gas in the area to permit house-to-house searches and rescue efforts.
Pastor Melvin Howard of the Mount Olive Full Gospel Church rushed to Jefferson Avenue when he heard the storm hit.
He told Al.com his church’s building had collapsed but no one was inside at the time.
“We’re just there to salvage what we can salvage,” Howard told the website. “Mikes and p.a. systems of that magnitude that we know someone would go in and take.”
The Christmas Day rain pelted two Alabama counties, Marion and Winston, with more than 8 inches of rain. Birmingham saw 4.4 inches of rain fall Friday, Al.com reported.
As of 5:20 a.m. Saturday, 2,800 Alabama Power customers were without power, including 1,900 in the Birmingham area, Al.com reported.
In Birmingham, Ruthie Green went door-to-door in a coat and a bicycle helmet to check on neighbors after the storm and swept debris from her front porch as more emergency responders arrived in the neighborhood.
“I been listening to the news all day so I was kind of preparing,” Green told the Associated Press. When the tornado warning came up on her iPad, Green said she ran to a closet.
“Then I heard the big roaring, it didn’t last more than three minutes,” Green said. “I just laid down and just kept praying.”
Green said she was unsure of whether any neighbors had been injured or killed down the block where several homes were destroyed.
“We probably won’t know anything until daylight comes,” she said. “I’m hoping that everybody got out all right.”
Elsewhere in the region, dozens of people faced Christmas having lost their homes and possessions. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on Friday issued a state of emergency for parts of the state experiencing flash flooding. Officials in southeast Alabama are particularly concerned, as Pea River is approaching record-levels near the town of Elba, which has a history of severe flooding.
Storms have already ravaged the Southeast this week. At least 15 people have died as the outbreak of severe weather trenched through Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas. The victims included a 7-year-old by in Mississippi who perished while riding in a car that was swept up and tossed by storm winds
Some people who survived the storms were thankful just to see another Christmas. Tony Goodwin ducked into a storm shelter with seven others as a storm pounded Tennessee and other states in the southeastern U.S. He emerged to find his house in Linden had been knocked off its foundation and hurled down a hill by high winds.
Goodwin’s neighbors weren’t so fortunate. Two people in one home were killed.
“It makes you thankful to be alive with your family,” he said.
Peak tornado season in the South is in the spring, but such storms can happen at any time. Exactly a year ago, tornadoes hit Mississippi, killing five people and injuring dozens.
Barbara Perkins was told Thursday by an insurance agent that her storm-damaged home in Falkner, Mississippi, was a complete loss. But Perkins — who survived the storm hunkered down inside a closet with her husband — said she was happy just to be alive. Two neighbors had died in the storm that swept across the southeastern U.S. earlier this week.
“You kind of stop and realize what Christmas is all about,” Perkins said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.