At least seven dead in Alabama twisters

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - A series of tornadoes swept through Alabama on Saturday, killing at least seven people near Tuscaloosa and injuring more than three dozen others.

One tornado hit the outskirts of Tuscaloosa, another raked a rural section of northern Alabama, and a third touched down in Geneva, near the Alabama-Florida line, injuring at least eight people.

''We are still trying to find out how many are unaccounted for,'' said Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ted Sexton. ''There were people out there Christmas shopping and all. We just don't know where they are.''

Sexton said that the Tuscaloosa tornado hit about 1 p.m. in two different areas and that authorities were continuing to search for victims Saturday evening. At least 30 people had been reported injured.

''It was roaring and the wind just blew. You didn't know if you were going to live or not,'' said Myrtle Bowden, who took refuge in a bathroom with her husband.

Debris was scattered along roads south of Tuscaloosa and was hanging from trees, many of them twisted and broken.

Beverly Smith's trailer was blown off its foundation and into a tree. Smith, who took cover in the trailer's bathroom when the tornado hit, was hospitalized with bruises, cuts and chest pains, said her brother, Kenny Thomas.

In her yard, the roof of a pickup truck was caved in. A photograph of a man, a woman and a child lay in a puddle, and a nearby tree was filled with orange insulation

Another tornado hit in the southern part of the state just before noon, overturning cars and destroying homes, Geneva Mayor Warren Beck said.

Geneva County Emergency Management Agency director, Margaret Mixon, said eight people were injured, two of them severely. Five homes were destroyed and at least 20 others were damaged.

The tornado damaged a textile mill and destroyed a peanut mill in neighboring Dale County. Dale County Commissioner Buddy Stapleton said he counted about a half-dozen homes hit near Newton.

In the northern part of the state, trees and power lines were toppled by a tornado in Limestone County, near the Tennessee line. Eight homes were destroyed.

Alabama Power Co. officials said the storms, which also pounded the state with hail early in the day, knocked out power to about 43,000 customers, raising concerns because temperatures across the state were expected to drop into the low 20s Saturday night.


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