A tornado killed one person and left several people critically injured in Alabama, US media said Tuesday.

The storm, which hit the town of Fultondale in Jefferson County late Monday, caused "significant damage," the National Weather Service (NWS) tweeted.

One person has died and at least five people have been hospitalized with critical injuries, Fultondale Police Chief D.P. Smith told local news media AL.com.

"It looks like a bomb went off," local pastor's son Sam Moerbe, 18, told the outlet.

Smith said he understood that the individual died after a tree collapsed on their home as they sheltered in the basement.

Pictures on social media showed homes and buildings reduced to splinters, wrecked cars and blocked roads.

Fultondale's Fire Chief Justin McKenzie told ABC 33/40 the town had been "hit bad, multiple injuries, multiple houses, trees, people trapped."

Rescuers were still working into Tuesday morning -- with authorities urging people to stay away from the area to allow emergency services to get to work.

Map of US locating town of Fultondale in the state of Alabama where a tornado struck late Monday night.
Map of US locating town of Fultondale in the state of Alabama where a tornado struck late Monday night. AFP / STAFF

"We do still have people trapped in houses," the city's mayor Larry Holcomb said, adding to News19 that he had received reports of around 20 people injured.

Jim Coker, Jefferson County EMA director, said the town of Centre Point had also been hit but was unable to give an exact number of the people hurt.

Jefferson Country fire service Homewood tweeted they were sending "units to assist with search & rescue operations after the storms."

Janice Hamilton, who lives in Fultondale, told AL media she was in bed when the storm hit.

"The roof left, and the walls," she said. "It was just in a matter of seconds. It's all gone."

One Twitter user wrote their home had been "destroyed," adding: "Nearly every house in our neighborhood in Fultondale is completely leveled."

Survivors were being taken to nearby Gardendale Civic Center.

Jefferson County Coroner Bill Yates also confirmed the death to CNN, and told the news organisation that the damage from the storm was "considerable."

An NWS tornado watch remained in place for many Alabama counties into Tuesday.