Tuesday, March 5th 2019, 5:23 pm - At least 23 dead as severe storm system, tornadoes hit the U.S. southeast.
At least 23 deaths have been reported amid a damaging tornado outbreak that struck the southeastern United States on Sunday afternoon.
"Unfortunately our toll, as far as fatalities, does stand at 23 at the current time," Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told WRBL-TV, adding that it's possible the death toll could rise. If that's the case, this could make the storms deadlier than the tornado that tore through Moore, Oklahoma, in 2013, killing 24 people.
Four children were among those killed, according to Lee County Coroner Bill Harris, which reports their ages as 6, 8, 9 and 10. The oldest victim of the storm was 89.
A line of severe storms swept through the Deep South Sunday, with numerous reports of tornadoes and associated damage prompting officials to declare 'tornado emergencies' for Alabama and Georgia.
Preliminary surveys from the National Weather Service have confirmed at least a dozen tornadoes in southern Alabama and Georgia, including the EF-4 rated storm that was responsible for the 23 fatalities in near Beauregard, Alabama.
Dangerous conditions stopped search and rescue efforts Sunday night as drones equipped with heat-seeking devices scanned the area for survivors. Rescuers resumed search efforts on Monday morning as they dug through the remnants of the destroyed homes and businesses. Temperatures had also fallen to just 2°C on Monday morning, leaving some who lost heat because of the storms to struggle with the cold.
"The devastation is incredible," Jones said.
According to the Lee County Emergency Management Agency, more than 150 first responders were on the ground in the moments after the storm.
Several towns in Georgia have also reported damage and injuries from suspected tornadoes in the southern third of the state. Additional damage reports also came in from the Florida Panhandle.
Images of devastating damage began emerging on social through Sunday evening.
With 23 fatalities confirmed, this outbreak has already topped the total number of deaths for all of 2018 in the United States.