Tornadoes Kill at Least 23 in Alabama

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A series of powerful tornadoes swept through Lee County in Alabama this past weekend, killing at least 23 people and leaving a vast swath of destruction in its wake. County Sheriff Jay Jones said the scene looked “as if someone had taken a blade and just scraped the ground.” As search crews scrambled to rescue survivors among the rubble, Jones called the aftermath of it all “catastrophic.”

Before the tornadoes hit, it has been reported the residents of the region had only a five-minute warning before they ripped through, pulling up buildings, homes, and infrastructure. A tornado watch was issued around noon, followed by a tornado warning at 2:58 PM ET. Five minutes later, the first reports of damage came into the National Weather Service. After the first tornado struck, a second warning came in at 3:38 PM ET, with reports of damage streaming in just 13 minutes later.

According to the National Weather Service, the tornadoes were classified as causing severe destruction, with winds reaching 136 to 165 miles per hour. The tornadoes are the deadliest the state of Alabama has seen since 2011, since the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham killed more than 200 people.

The victims all died in Lee County, according to Jones. Of the 23, some of the deaths included children. The number of injured has yet to be fully accounted for, but Jones reported to local CNN affiliate WRBL that some people on scene were being treated for “very serious injuries.”  while more than 20 people are still unaccounted for.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey extended the state of emergency that was issued last month due to a severe tornado season rife with severe weather. “Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today,” she tweeted.

Footage of the storm showed trees uprooted by the powerful winds while debris was scattered among completely leveled homes. Sheriff Jones said “I have not seen this level of destruction ever in my experience here in Lee County. We have not seen anything of this nature before.”

For now, crews of over 150 first responder are combing through the wreckage, and beginning to assess the magnitude of the damage caused. Thankfully, no more deaths have been announced, while those injured are receiving emergency medical attention.

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