The tornadoes and heavy rainfall that hit the southeast on Thursday took a particularly heavy toll on Newnan, Georgia.
Pictures shared on Twitter by residents of the city, which is located approximately 40 miles southwest of Atlanta, show homes with roofs partially ripped off, doors ripped off their hinges and trees fallen across roads and through buildings.
“The city experienced heavy damage in and around the historic downtown area due to tonight’s weather,” Newnan city officials said in a statement released on Friday morning.
“Please note that both the city and county crews are in route and working on scene to clear impacted areas. Please remain safe in your homes and take shelter. Stay safe!”
In a Facebook post shared early on Friday, Newnan Police Department urged residents to “get off the road” and confirmed the city had suffered a “large” amount of damage, which included “trees down and power lines down.”
The tornadoes hit Newnan at around midnight ET on Friday, less than a day after Georgia and neighbouring states were battered by severe weather. In Alabama, five people, including a family of three, were killed in Calhoun County, while a police officer in Florence suffered burns after being hit by lightning.
On Thursday, the National Weather Service issued tornado warnings in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina and subsequently reported several tornadoes hit portions of the three states, adding Tennessee and Mississippi both faced a high risk of tornadoes and flash floods.
A new tornado warning was issued until 7 am EDT for 16 counties in Georgia— Clayton County, Fayette County, Henry County, Newton County, Rockdale County, Walton County, Clarke County, Madison County, Oconee County, Coweta County, Harris County, Heard County, Meriwether County, Pike County, Spalding County and Troup County.
The National Weather Service has encouraged people living in areas where a tornado warning has been issued to take shelter immediately if they spot dark, rotating clouds or hear a tornado siren. Outdoor furniture and any other loose items that could be blown away should be moved inside, while windows should be kept closed.
The basement or lowest floor of a building is the safest location to take shelter, while people living in mobile homes should head to the nearest building or shelter.
“You really need to take action when the warnings are issued and not wait until you can see the danger,” said Bill Bunting, chief of forecast operations at the National Weather Service.
According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were 1,000 tornadoes recorded in the U.S. last year, which caused 76 deaths.