Four of the nine people who were killed by a tornado that swept through Alabama earlier this week were members of the same family, officials said on Saturday.
In a news release, the Autauga County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) said that the four related victims lived at two homes on the same road in Prattville, Alabama.
Victims Robert Gardner Jr, 70, and Deanna Marie Corbin, 59, lived in one residence at the 800 block of Sandy Ridge Road, while Christopher Allen Corbin Jr, 46, and Tessa Celeste Desmet, 21 lived at another on the 1000 block. The sheriff’s office did not specify how the four were related.
Authorities also confirmed the deaths of three other individuals in the community, aged in their 50s and 60s.
“It is with a very heavy heart that we also have to report that the tornado caused seven (7) deaths in Autauga County,” ASCO said in its news release. “Please pray for the families that lost loved ones and the ones recovering from injuries received from this tornado.”
The seven deaths in Autauga County were among the nine deaths confirmed statewide after a series of severe storms swept through the southeastern part of the U.S. on Thursday, destroying homes, businesses, and knocking out power in the region.
Meteorologists have said that a La Nina weather pattern — along with warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and a decades-long increase in tornadoes occurring in the eastern part of the country — likely contributed to the major storm so early in the year.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) declared a state of emergency in six counties, including Autauga, in the aftermath of the storm.
“I — along with my partners at the Alabama EMA — will continue monitoring to determine if an expanded state of emergency is needed,” Ivey wrote on Twitter Thursday. “I am ready to be a helping hand to our local officials. Please continue using caution, and stay safe out there!”
President Biden also approved an emergency declaration in Alabama on Sunday.