Extreme damage, at least 23 fatalities after series of tornadoes hit Alabama and Georgia

Extreme damage, at least 23 fatalities after series of tornadoes hit Alabama and Georgia

A series of destructive tornadoes ripped through Alabama and Georgia on Sunday, March 3, 2019, killing at least 23 people in Alabama's Lee County. Unfortunately, the death toll is expected to rise. This is the deadliest Alabama tornado day since 2011 when more than 200 people were killed in Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado and the deadliest US tornado day since May 20, 2013 Newcastle-OKC-Moore tornado. During the entire 2018, tornadoes in the United States killed 10 people.

At least 12 casualties occurred in an area about 8 - 9 km (5 to 6 miles) south of the city of Opelika, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said, adding that many people are injured and some are still missing. While it's still unclear how many people are injured, East Alabama Medical Center said it had received more than 40 patients and more were expected.

Jones said tornadoes left massive damage that appeared 'as if someone had taken a blade and just scraped the ground.'

"We’ve done everything we feel like we can do this evening. The area is just very, very hazardous to put anybody in to at this point in time - debris everywhere and it’s just...just some mass damage to structures and residences in the area," Jones said.

CNN Meteorologist Gener Norman said it appears that two tornadoes hit Lee County back-to-back within the span of an hour. The first tornado was at least EF-3 and at least 800 m (880 miles) wide, NWS said.

The hardest hit area appears to be Lee Road 38, south of Beauregard.

An airport in Eufaula and a fire station were destroyed, NWS meteorologists said.

Multiple homes suffered significant damage and multiple agencies are working to assist in the search for injured people inside their homes, Jones said.

"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," Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said. The victims range in age from children to older adults, he said.

Survey teams will be sent Monday morning to Autauga, Macon, Lee, Barbour and  Butler counties Monday.

At least a dozen tornadoes touched down in Alabama and Georgia on Sunday afternoon, NWS said.

More than 42 000 homes and businesses lost electricity across both states.

Featured image: Lee County tornado damage, Alabama March 3, 2019. Credit: Live Storms Media

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