23 Dead After Powerful Tornado Rips Through Southeast Alabama: 'The Devastation Is Incredible'
Nearly two dozen people are dead after a vicious F3 tornado tore through southeast Alabama on Sunday.
The tornado — which also left several people injured and more than 40,000 homes and businesses without power — touched down in Beauregard in Lee County around 2 p.m. local time and was at least a half-mile wide as it ripped through the region, reports say.
“The devastation is incredible,” said Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones, WRBL reported.
The tornado was part of a severe storm system that caused major damage and produced tornadoes in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, according to The Weather Channel.
In Lee County — where the deaths included children — authorities dispatched drones with heat-seeking devices to locate any survivors in the wreckage, according to WRBL.
“We’ve still got people being pulled out of rubble,” Lee County Coroner Bill Harris told AL.com on Sunday. “We’re going to be here all night.”
Dozens of emergency responders have joined the search and rescue efforts in Lee County and the coroner’s office had to call in more help to handle the number of bodies found, according to the Associated Press. Although official wind estimates for the tornado are unclear, F3 storms typically pack wind speeds between 158 and 206 mph, the AP reported.
“It appears it stayed on the ground for at least a mile and maybe longer,” Jones told the AP of the storm.
Nearby towns were on alert following the destruction in Lee County. The National Weather Service issued a tornado emergency after one was confirmed near Smiths Station, according to The Weather Channel. Smiths Station Mayor Bubba Copeland told The Weather Channel that at least 12 houses were flattened in the city.
Although no deaths or serious injuries were reported in the city, Copeland told The Weather Channel, “We have a lot of mobile homes turned upside down.”
“Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today,” Ivey tweeted earlier. “Praying for their families & everyone whose homes or businesses were affected. Officials from #AlabamaEma & other agencies are quickly working to provide assistance.”
President Donald Trump also sent his condolences, tweeting Sunday night: “To the great people of Alabama and surrounding areas: Please be careful and safe. Tornadoes and storms were truly violent and more could be coming. To the families and friends of the victims, and to the injured, God bless you all!”
Sunday marked the deadliest day for tornadoes in the country since 2013, according to The Weather Channel.