At least 22 people, some of them children, have died after a tornado swept through Lee County, Alabama on Sunday, destroying numerous homes and leaving a death toll that could rise as rescuers sift through the rubble, Sheriff Jay Jones said.
Emergency workers were expected to toil into the night, pulling bodies and the injured out of the rubble of destroyed homes and businesses.
“The challenge is the sheer volume of the debris where all the homes were located,” Jones said in an interview with CNN. “It’s the most I’ve seen that I can recall.”
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said that the death toll could rise.
“We’ve still got people being pulled out of rubble,” he told the Birmingham News newspaper early on Sunday evening. “We’re going to be here all night.”
Severe weather unleashed one of numerous possible tornadoes that threatened the Southern United States on Sunday afternoon. Tornado warnings and watches were in effect for parts of Georgia and Alabama through Sunday evening.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey warned residents on Twitter that more severe weather might be on the way. She said the state was working to help families who had been impacted.
“Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today,” Ivey wrote on Twitter. “Praying for their families & everyone whose homes or businesses were affected.”
Lee County Schools announced on Twitter that campuses in the county would be closed on Monday.
The storm left more than 10,000 customers without power, the Birmingham News said, citing the utility Alabama Power.
As thousands faced a night without power, temperatures looked set to fall to near freezing following the storm.
“Colder air will sweep into the Southeast behind the severe weather with temperatures dropping into the 30s (1 C) southward to central Georgia and across most of Alabama by Monday morning,” AccuWeather meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said. “Those without power who rely on electric heat need to find ways to say warm.”
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