A powerful tornado that ripped through Lee County Alabama is being blamed for at least 23 deaths and leaving behind a scar of destruction that looked "as if someone had taken a blade and just scraped the ground," the county sheriff said.
The storm smashed through homes and toppled over cell phone towers and power lines with Sheriff Jay Jones categorizing the damage as "catastrophic." First responders returned to the scene Monday morning to hunt for survivors. Dozens have been injured and the death toll could rise as rescue teams survey the damage and look for survivors.
At least a dozen tornadoes were generated by a powerful storm that ripped through parts of Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia in the nation's deadliest tornado outbreak since 2013.
"The contents of one residence we know for a fact were located over a 1,000 yards away, so we've go a very wide storm track," Jones said.
At a press conference Monday morning, Lee County coroner Bill Harris said his office had to contact the state for help because there were more bodies than they could handle. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey expanded a state of emergency statewide with state officials working to provide assistance to the citizens in Lee County.
"Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County," she said in a statement. "Praying for their families and everyone whose homes or businesses were affected."
President Donald Trump tweeted Monday morning that the federal government stood ready to help the state of Alabama recover from the devastating storms.
"FEMA has been told directly by me to give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama and the wonderful people who have been so devastated by the Tornadoes. @GovIvey, one of the best in our Country, has been so informed. She is working closely with FEMA (and me!)."
The tornado was estimated to be at least EF-3 in strength, meaning winds reached between 136 and 165 mph, with the funnel reaching a half-mide wide or larger. A warning about the twister was issued about 20 minutes before it hit. Some people in the region reported having only a few minutes warning before the tornado struck. A tornado watch was issued for the area around noon on Sunday, with the first tornado warning coming for Lee County at 2:58 pm ET.
At least a dozen tornadoes touched down in Alabama and Georgia Sunday afternoon, the NWS said.
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