A teenager was killed while hiding with his family in the basement of their home late Monday, when a tornado tore through the city of Fultondale, Ala., leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.
Authorities say the victim was fatally injured and several of his family members were critically hurt after the tornado toppled a tree onto their home, which caused the building to collapse on top of them.
Most safety guidelines recommend taking shelter below ground — in a basement or even a ditch — during a tornado.
“They were doing what they were supposed to be doing,” police Chief D.P. Smith said Tuesday.
He added that only one family member escaped the collapse unharmed.
Dozens of people were injured by the tornado, which destroyed several buildings, tossed cars around like toys and hurled debris through solid walls.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Birmingham confirmed that a “large and extremely dangerous tornado” had touched down late Monday, CNN reports.
One suburb dweller tweeted a photo Tuesday morning of a beam that had come shooting through the wall of his bedroom.
“Got my wife and baby out of (the) bedroom about 10 minutes (before) this happened,” he tweeted.
Seventeen people were treated in hospital and at least 11 others were treated on the scene of the tornado’s path, Fultondale fire Chief Justin McKenzie told WVTM-TV.
Some of the most significant damage happened at the Hampton Inn hotel, where a corner of the building was torn away.
Several schools were closed and highways were shut down while crews cleared away debris and repaired power lines.
“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 tweeted early Tuesday. “I offer my prayers & deepest sympathies & pledge the full support & resources our state has to offer. I am with you, Fultondale!”
Alabama’s tornado season peaks between March and May, but tornadoes happen every month of the year in the state, according to the National Weather Service.
Search and rescue efforts were still underway on Tuesday morning.
—With files from The Associated Press