LEE COUNTY, Alabama, March 3, 2019 (UPI) — At least 23 people have died and many more are still missing after two tornados tore through Alabama Sunday, local authorities said.
The victims were all from Lee County, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said, CNN reported.
Earlier Sunday, Jones had reported the death toll at 14 and that he expected it to rise.
“I can say that at this time we have 14 confirmed fatalities,” Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told local media Sunday evening. “And, again, the search continues. We sill have some people that are reported missing.”
He described the damage as “catastrophic.”
He did not specify the number of people missing while the Lee County coroner has asked the state mortuary response team for help, the Weather Channel reported.
The National Weather Service for Birmingham said it had a team in Lee County and determined the first tornado was at least an EF-3 and was a half-mile wide.
Three survey teams will be sent out Monday to assess the damage in Autauga, Macon, Lee and Barbour Counties, it said on Twitter.
“Our thoughts & prayers go out to everyone impacted by today’s storms,” the service said in a tweet. “Please stay out of damaged areas so first responders can do their job.
Some 42,000 homes and businesses in Alabama and Georgia, which was also impacted by the storms, were without electricity Sunday as the National Weather Service issued a “freeze warning” for residents from Hamilton to Demopolis due to temperatures dropping to the high 20s throughout the night and into Monday morning.
The extent of the damage forced Alabama Mayor Kay Ivey to extend the State of Emergency first issued Feb. 23, she said on Twitter.
“Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today,” she said earlier in a tweet. “Praying for their families & everyone whose homes or business were affected.”
Donald Trump also expressed his worry for the people of Alabama, telling residents to be careful in an early Monday tweet.
“Tornadoes and storms were truly violent and more could be coming,” he said. “To the families and friends of the victims, and to the injured, God bless you all!”
All Lee County Schools would be closed Sunday due to the storms, it said.