WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- At least 23 fatalities and dozens of injuries were reported after catastrophic tornadoes swept through Lee County, Alabama, on Sunday.
- A severe weather outbreak across the southeastern part of the US caused at least two violent tornadoes to hit Alabama and Georgia.
- Reports of multiple damaged homes and businesses plus the casualties prompted Gov. Kay Ivey to declare a statewide emergency.
At least 23 deaths were reported in Lee County after powerful tornadoes swept through Alabama and Georgia on Sunday afternoon. East Alabama Medical Center reported that it was treating over 40 patients and that an undetermined number of injured victims had been treated from other hospitals.
Since ambulances couldn’t get through the wreckage, some of the victims were transported to the hospitals by trucks.
Gov. Kay Ivey declared a statewide emergency.
The identities and ages of the fatalities hadn’t been completely determined, according to Sheriff Jay Jones.
“We do have some children, unfortunately,” said the sheriff who is also concerned that the death toll will rise. “The devastation is incredible,” he said.
Jones added that search was stopped late Sunday due to dangerous conditions.
A local resident described the tornado like a “freight train coming.”
The rain stopped after nightfall but power was out in many places. Debris and tree branches littered Beauregard streets. Sheriff’s vehicles were used to block reporters and civilians from entering areas that were hit the worst.
Jones said search and rescue efforts will resume when the weather permits. Drones equipped with heat-seeking devices to find survivors were used prior search and rescue stopped.
Beauregard resident Jonathan Hickman told NBC News that multiple homes seemed to have been destroyed. “Everything got wiped. It’s been leveled.”
A preliminary assessment of the twister by The National Weather Service put it at F3 on the Fujita scale, adding it was at least a half-mile wide. Typically, F3 storms are gauged at wind speeds of between 158-206 mph.
“This is a day of destruction for Lee County. We’ve never had a mass fatality situation, that I can remember, like this in my lifetime,” County Coroner Bill Harris told NBC affiliate WSFA of Montgomery.
President Donald Trump urged residents in the region to “be careful and safe.”
Source: NBC News