Selma devastated by EF-2 tornado

Published 5:25 pm Thursday, January 19, 2023

Grassroots organizers are working to help residents of Selma after an EF-2 tornado struck the heart of Queen City on Thursday, January 12.

The National Weather Service has rated the tornado a high-end EF-2 tornado with maximum winds of 130 mph with a path nearly half a mile wide.

The tornado began just east of Orrville in Dallas County near the intersection of Hwy. 22 and Cahaba Road.

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Damage was sustained in West Selma near West Dallas Avenue and Old Orrville Road before making its way into downtown Selma where Broad Street sustained heavy damage as well as the neighborhoods near Minter Avenue, Leroy Street and Marie Foster Street, where roofs were lifted off of homes and utter devastation was seen throughout the community. There was also significant damage to the Rangedale Annex apartments.

The American Red Cross has a shelter set up at Selma High School, which is on Broad Street, for those who have been affected by Thursday’s tornado. Volunteers are on hand at the school’s cafeteria to help assist victims with necessities and getting back on their feet.  The Red Cross also needs volunteers.

Sen. Rob Stewart, who represents Selma in the state legislature, said he is very grateful for the outpouring of support the community has received.

“I’m grateful that the governor moved swiftly and the president as well with disaster declarations,” he said. “Local officials are on the ground making sure our citizens’ needs are met. This is going to be a long, yet persistent road to recovery.”

Stewart said that even though there wasn’t loss of life in Selma, livelihoods have been decimated.

“We will need support long after the camera crews are gone,” he said.

Specifically, residents need help removing debris and trees from their yards and homes, he said.

“We need chainsaw crews,” he said. “We had a request this morning from an 85-year-old lady who had a tree fall on her home and needs it removed. No one had come to help her yet.”

Stewart said there is a need for folks to help faith-based organizations who are providing warm meals since a lot of residents lost their perishable food for the month due to power outages and destruction from the tornado. Additionally, Stewart said with school being out, that puts children at risk of being hungry since a lot of students in Selma receive their meals solely from school. First Baptist Church on MLK is providing hot meals daily.

There is a huge need for baby formula, adult and baby diapers, he said.

“We have a lot of vulnerable people,” he said. “From our elderly to our students who are out of school.”

Stewart said another immediate need is for people to help provide laptops and hotspots for locals who need to fill out FEMA relief applications. Those who are able to provide laptops and hotspots are needed for the weekend and weeknights since many residents have gone back to work.

Stewart said help is also needed for the Beloit area right outside of Selma who also sustained heavy damage.

Donations can be taken to Selma High School or to City of Selma Command Center at the George Evans Reception Center.

“We need water, snacks and other non-perishable food,” Stewart said.

The Knights & Orchids Society has been busy giving out food, baby supplies such as diapers and wipes, and water at their location at 17 Broad Street in Selma.

“We are providing diapers, formula, toiletries, cases of water and cleaning supplies,” said Jennine Bell, finance and operations director for TKO Society. “We are also helping people without power get access to generators or hotels if their home was destroyed. The city also needs volunteers cleaning up and cutting down trees.”

Donations are needed to continue assistance in the community. To reach out to TKO Society for assistance, call 334-603-1716.

The Black Belt Community Foundation is also working with the city of Selma to help with disaster relief.

Funds raised through the Black Belt Community Foundation will help displaced residents find alternative shelter options, provide food, water, clothing, secure broken windows and buildings, and medical and mental health attention. The funds will also help with rebuilding after the cleanup is complete in Selma.

“We are asking for your support and investment in Selma and across Dallas County to provide relief to those impacted by the destruction,” said Doran K. Harris, communication and public relations spokesperson for the Black Belt Community Foundation. “This includes direct services to those in immediate need, data collection, encompasses the process of redevelopment for housing and local businesses, ensuring that local people are able to stay and prosper in their own community without fear of displacement or gentrification. In addition to the direct services and redevelopment, funding is needed to ensure that throughout the process ‘beloved community power building’ is taking place to create solutions rooted and grounded in the needs identified by the people of the community and their unified vision.”

To donate, click here.

Other disaster relief efforts include:

The Central Alabama Community Foundation is teaming up with WSFA to host a Central Alabama Tornado Relief Drive on Wednesday, January 18, from 6 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. You can donate by texting ALRelief to 44321.

The United Way of Central Alabama is also collecting donations to help those affected by the tornado. It has been reported that some 50 homes were destroyed by the tornado. The United Way of Central Alabama is working with the United Way of Selma & Dallas County to help collect donations. To donate click here or or text SELMA to 62644.

Hometown Action’s Community Resilience team is working to assess the needs as first responders finish their jobs in the areas impacted across rural Alabama from Selma to Tallapoosa County.

“Right now our Community Resilience team is assessing needs in order to step in when our time comes,” said Warren Tidwell, Community Resilience Organizer at Hometown Action. “Our volunteers are second responders and will be with our people as long as they need. The months of long-term recovery are sometimes the hardest part. We are an organization focused on rural Alabama because we know rural folks don’t get the same attention as other places. It is often a struggle to get material needs met as we help folks rebuild their lives. Our communities are on the front line of the climate crisis, yet receive the least support when it comes to disaster recovery.”

Those who wish to donate to Hometown Action can do so by clicking here.

President Joe Biden has approved a disaster declaration for Dallas and Autauga counties, which makes federal funding available to individuals affected by tornadoes.

Disaster assistance can include grants for temporary housing, home repairs, loans to cover property losses that were uninsured and other programs.