MOBILE, Ala. - A tornado peeled the roofs from buildings, toppled trucks, and blew down oak trees and limbs in the Mobile area early Thursday, leading to road closures but no reports of major injuries, authorities said.
National Weather Service officials assessed the damage Thursday afternoon and said the EF-1 tornado had estimated wind speeds of between 86 and 109 miles per hour. An EF2 or higher is considered a significant tornado.
The American Red Cross office in Mobile suffered heavy damage and three of its disaster trailers there were destroyed, the organization said. The trailers contained cots, blankets and other items needed in emergencies.
Red Cross officials say that despite significant damage to the office in midtown Mobile, they are still able to use it and were working to assist others in the Mobile area in the tornado's aftermath.
About 54,700 customers throughout the state lost power Thursday, Alabama Power officials said. About 22,800 customers were still without power as of 4 p.m. Of that number, 7,350 customers in Mobile were still without power Thursday evening. Alabama Power officials said they planned to restore service to most customers Thursday evening and would work through the night in the hardest-hit areas.
Mobile County Emergency Management Agency Director Ronnie Adair told The Associated Press, "We have a lot of buildings with roof damage, peeled off and blown off. Some high-profile trucks like delivery trucks were turned over."
Ten homes in the Mobile area sustained major damage or were destroyed, according to preliminary assessments by the Red Cross.
Tornado watches were in effect Thursday morning from parts of Louisiana and Mississippi to the western end of Florida's Panhandle, including 28 Alabama counties, as a cold front connected to Midwestern storms pushed across the Southeast.
In southern Alabama, the storms struck around 5 a.m. Thursday. Large oak trees and limbs were blown across roads in Mobile County, blocking some ahead of rush hour, Adair said.
The trucks that were toppled were parked and unoccupied.
Much of the damage in southern Alabama occurred along the Interstate 65 corridor, said Yasamie August, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.