A fallen cell tower lies across U.S. Route 280 highway in Lee County, Alabama, in the Smiths Station community after what appeared to be a tornado struck in the area Sunday, March 3, 2019. Image Credit: AP

March 4, 10.18am

A tornado tore through the southern US state of Alabama on Sunday, killing 23 people, uprooting trees and causing "catastrophic" damage to buildings and roads, a local sheriff said.

"Unfortunately our toll, as far as fatalities, does stand at 23 at the current time" Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told the local CBS affiliate, acknowledging that children were among the dead.

Other people have been hospitalized, some with "very serious injuries," he had earlier told reporters.

Search operations for those still missing were halted on Sunday night due to hazardous conditions, but Jones added they would resume on Monday morning.

"The devastation is incredible," he said.

"I cannot recall at least in the last 50 years... a situation where we have had this loss of life that we experienced today."


March 4, 8.53am

An apparent tornado roared into southeast Alabama and killed at least 22 people and injured several others Sunday, part of a severe storm system that caused catastrophic damage and unleashed other tornadoes around the Southeast.

"We are at 22 right now. Unfortunately, I feel like that number may rise yet again," Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said of the death toll.

Drones flying overheard equipped with heat-seeking devices had scanned the area for survivors but the dangerous conditions halted the search late Sunday, Jones said. An intense ground search would resume Monday morning.

Jones said the apparent twister traveled straight down a key local artery in Beauregard and that the path of damage and destruction appeared at least a half mile wide. He said single-family homes and mobile homes were destroyed, adding some homes were reduced to slabs. He had told reporters earlier that several people were taken to hospitals, some with "very serious injuries."

Lee County Coroner Bill Harris told The Associated Press that he had to call in help from the state, because there were more bodies than his four-person office can handle.

Dozens of emergency responders rushed to join search and rescue efforts in hard-hit Lee County after what forecasters said they think was a large tornado touched down Sunday afternoon, unleashed by a powerful storm system that also slashed its way across parts of Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.

Radar and video evidence showed what looked like a large tornado crossing the area near Beauregard shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, said meteorologist Meredith Wyatt with the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service.

"It appears it stayed on the ground for at least a mile and maybe longer," Jones told the AP.

After nightfall Sunday, the rain had stopped and pieces of metal debris and tree branches littered roadways in Beauregard. Two sheriff's vehicles blocked reporters and others from reaching the worst-hit area. Power appeared to be out in many places.


March 4, 5am

At least fourteen people, some of them children, have died after a tornado swept through Lee County Alabama on Sunday, Sheriff Jay Jones said.

Emergency workers were expected to toil into the night, pulling bodies and the injured out of the rubble of hundreds of homes.

"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.

This photo provided by James Lally shows a funnel-shaped cloud on I-10 near Marianna, Fla., Sunday, March 3, 2019. Image Credit: AP

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." The storm left more than 10,000 customers without power, the Birmingham News said, citing the utility Alabama Power.