Norwalk Reflector: At least 23 dead as tornadoes hit Alabama
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At least 23 dead as tornadoes hit Alabama

By William Thornton • Mar 4, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Authorities are saying at least 23 people are dead amid “catastrophic” damage there following a possible tornado Sunday afternoon.

And more people are missing as crews search through wreckage and debris.

Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told WRBL-TV on Sunday that damage followed a path several miles long and appeared up to a fourth of a mile wide. He said Sunday night that families in the area had “lost everything they ever had.”

At a late news conference , Jones said crews were still working as of 9:30 p.m. to secure the areas hit by the storm.

The devastation prompted President Trump to tweet:

Lee County was only one of several areas across Alabama hit by severe weather, as damage was reported in at least six counties.

Shortly after the storm hit Lee County, a possible tornado struck near Eufaula’s Weedon Field Airport, according to reports. David Logan, Barbour County EMA director, said much of the damage was confined to the area around U.S. 431. The storm destroyed a fire station and a chicken hatchery, as well as inflicting damage on a few homes.

There were reports of other storms in Washington, Macon, Autauga and Houston counties.

Rita Smith, spokeswoman for the Lee County Emergency Management Agency, said first responders were on the scene in two different areas of the county. Smith said she could confirm multiple fatalities but that officials were still trying to gather information, and multiple search and rescue operations were underway.

Lee County Coroner Bill Harris at 8 p.m. said victim ages range from children to 80s.

“We’re still got people being pulled out of rubble,” he said. “We’re going to be here all night.”

East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika stated at 6 p.m. that it had received more than 40 patients as a result of the tornado, with some sent to surrounding hospitals. As a result, the hospital is cancelling elective procedures for Monday morning.

Lee County EMA said a tornado warning was issued at 2:38 p.m. Several reports are centered around the Smith Station area near Phenix City and the Alabama/Georgia line. Other reports came from the Beauregard area. EMA told residents that Smith Station Volunteer Fire Department Station #1 was where citizens affected by the storms should seek assistance with sheltering or unmet needs.

Other storm warnings were issued this afternoon in south Alabama and the Wiregrass area.

Alabama Power stated this afternoon that more than 10,000 customers were without power.

The National Weather Service said it would send three survey teams out tomorrow. They will assess damage in Autauga, Macon, Lee and Barbour Counties.

Gov. Kay Ivey said in a tweet that state EMA officials are working with local officials. She is extending the state’s state of emergency, issued Feb. 23, to deal with flooding.

“Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today. Praying for their families & everyone whose homes or businesses were affected,” Ivey said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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