LEE COUNTY, Ala. - Authorities have identified the 23 people killed Sunday when a preliminary EF-4 tornado tore through Lee County, turning homes and business near Beauregard into rubble.
The victims were between 6 and 89 years old and included seven victims from a single family, connected by marriage, Lee County authorities said Tuesday.
More than 40 people were injured in what weather experts called an “outbreak of tornadoes” that ripped through parts of Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
Wow, look at all the reported tornadoes yesterday across the south.@BMonahanWSB says several of them are the same tornado (damage in different spots).— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) March 4, 2019
We're LIVE as rescuers desperately search for survivors, NOW on Channel 2 Action News This Morning - https://t.co/OY1LGBatJh pic.twitter.com/QwLR6JTRuf
Update 9:40 a.m. EST March 6: Lee County Coroner Bill Harris told WTVM a pair of corporations have offered to pay for the funerals of the 23 people killed Sunday in the tornado that ripped through Beauregard.
“I got a phone call from an individual that said … there’s a very large corporation that will probably pay most, if not all, of the cost of every victim’s funeral,” Harris told WTVM. “I got another call from another company that will do the same thing. So, between the two, these expenses – which can be up into the thousands – will probably be covered by these two companies.”
Lee County authorities have identified 23 people killed in Sunday’s preliminary EF-4 tornado. The victims ranged in age from 6 to 89 years old.
President Donald Trump plans to visit Alabama on Friday to survey the wreckage. He declared Tuesday that a major disaster exists in the state and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.
In a news release Tuesday, the Trump Administration said assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the disaster.
Damage assessments are ongoing.
Update 2:30 p.m. EST March 5: President Donald Trump said he plans to visit Alabama on Friday.
“It's been a tragic situation but a lot of good work is being done,” Trump said Tuesday at a news conference. “We've been in constant touch with the governor and also the governor of Georgia.”
It was not immediately clear how long he’d be in the area.
Update 11:55 a.m. EST March 5: Lee County officials released the names of the 23 people killed in Sunday’s storm at a news conference Tuesday morning. The victims ranged in age from 6 to 89 and included seven members of a single family, connected by marriage, officials said.
Update 11:25 a.m. EST March 5: Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said Tuesday that seven or eight people remained missing after a deadly tornado spun through Beauregard on Sunday.
“Hopefully that number will continue to decrease as the day goes on,” Jones said. “We’re not ruling (further fatalities) completely out, but we’re hoping that ... number stays static.”
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said the death toll remained at 23 by Tuesday morning and included victims between the ages of 6 and 89.
The deaths also included seven people from a single family connected by marriage, Harris said. The families lived two or three houses apart from each other in Lee County.
“Just keep those families in your prayers,” Harris said.
Search efforts continued Tuesday.
Update 11 a.m. EST March 5: Officials in Lee County are providing an update Tuesday on the ongoing search and rescue efforts in the area after Sunday’s deadly tornado.
Update 9:50 a.m. EST March 5: Lee County sheriff’s deputies are expected to hold a news conference at 10 a.m. CST to update the public about ongoing search and rescue efforts.
Deputies said Monday that 23 people were killed in the preliminary EF-4 tornado that touched down Sunday in the county. The storm cut a path nearly 1-mile wide and at least 24 miles long, Sheriff Jay Jones said.
Update 10:30 p.m. EST March 4: Tornado survivors are recounting harrowing stories of not only loss, but of bravery and heroism, too.
A tornado survivor and her mother were able to ride out Sunday’s tornado and walk away alive, but the woman told WBRC-TV that they lost seven family members in the storm.
We’re in #Beauregard tonight speaking with a woman who lost 7 family members due to the EF-4 tornado. She and her mother rode out the storm and are thankful despite so much loss around them. Their survival story tonight at 9, 9:30 and 10 @WBRCnews #BeauregardStrong pic.twitter.com/dxYFtRfkrT— Josh Gauntt (@joshg_TV) March 5, 2019
So far three children are among the 23 dead and multiple adults, according to Lee County Coroner Bill Harris, but the identities have still not been publicly released.
“It’s been a long night," Harris said Monday evening according to WBRC. “These families, some of them have lost entire families.”
“This is the worst natural disaster that has ever occurred in Lee County," said county EMA Director Kathryn Carson. "Most of us cannot remember anything ever creating this much of a loss of life and injuries in our citizens.”
Greg Molinari credits his family’s survival to a text message from his daughter-in-law minutes before the twister hit, according to AL.com.
She told them to use kitchen pots as helmets and it seems it saved their lives.
“We did put big cooking pots over our head,” Molinari told AL.com. "Saved our lives. The ceiling crashed in on us.”
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed an expedited disaster declaration late Monday asking President Donald Trump to approve immediate assistance for the state.
Just signed an expedited major disaster declaration request asking @POTUS to approve our need for immediate assistance in Lee County. Earlier today, President Trump pledged his unwavering support for the folks of Alabama & assured me @FEMA will be there to help. @AlabamaEMA pic.twitter.com/IrF9harApY— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) March 4, 2019
Update 7:00 p.m. EST March 4: The Lee County Sheriff’s Office called off the search for victims and survivors Monday evening, giving emergency workers a chance to rest and regroup before heading out again on Tuesday to search for the “dozens’ of missing.
BREAKING: Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones says search and rescue has been called off for the night. #alwx— WSFA 12 News (@wsfa12news) March 5, 2019
Update 2:30 p.m. EST March 4: Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said at a news conference Monday afternoon that the death toll remained at 23 as officials continued search and rescue efforts in the area on Monday.
Twenty-three people, including three children age 10 and younger, were killed as a result of the tornado. Harris said most of those killed have been identified, with the exception of a half dozen who have to be identified through fingerprints.
“We believe we know who those individuals are and, as of 12 noon today, I have none that have been reported to me as missing,” Harris said. “We think we have everybody. Once they get into some more areas, I’m not going to be surprised if we come up with more decedents. Hopefully we wont.”
The National Weather Service has given the storm a preliminary EF-4 rating.
Update 2:20 p.m. EST March 4: Officials with the National Weather Service have measured the strength of a tornado that devastated parts of Lee County on Sunday as a preliminary EF-4 tornado.
“This was the deadliest tornado in the United States since the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado in 2013,” Chris Darden, the meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service's Birmingham field office, said Monday at a news conference.
Officials estimated tornado wind speeds were around 170 mph, Darden said.
BREAKING: Preliminary EF-4 Tornado Damage has been found along County Road 39 just east of Cave Mill Road in southwestern Lee County. Winds have been estimated at 170mph. Single family homes were completely destroyed. Photos are from those survey locations. #alwx pic.twitter.com/euYNfSDY11— NWS Birmingham (@NWSBirmingham) March 4, 2019
Authorities are also probing possible tornado tracks in Macon and Barbour counties, officials said.
Search and rescue efforts continue Monday.
Update 11:20 a.m. EST March 4: Officials with Lee-Scott Academy in Auburn, Alabama, identified one of the victims in Sunday's deadly Lee County tornado as Taylor Thornton, a fourth-grade student at the school.
"Our hearts at Lee-Scott Academy are broken this morning,” officials said in a post on Facebook. “Please pray for the Thornton family, our students, faculty, and staff during this difficult time.”
Update 10:45 a.m. EST March 4: Officials with the National Weather Service said Monday that they were surveying possible tornado tracks in a handful of Alabama counties.
Crews were investigating reports out of Macon, Lee and Barbour counties.
Here's an overview of the locations that we're investigating today. These are NOT the actual tornado tracks, but areas that NWS teams are surveying. They are currently on-site and gathering data in Macon, Lee, and Barbour Counties as we speak. #alwx pic.twitter.com/GOSUakW7uD— NWS Birmingham (@NWSBirmingham) March 4, 2019
Update 10 a.m. EST March 4: President Donald Trump said he’s instructed Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to “give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama” as the state grapples with the aftermath of Sunday’s storms.
“(Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey), one of the best in our Country, has been so informed,” Trump said in a tweet. “She is working closely with FEMA (and me!).”
FEMA has been told directly by me to give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama and the wonderful people who have been so devastated by the Tornadoes. @GovernorKayIvey, one of the best in our Country, has been so informed. She is working closely with FEMA (and me!).— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2019
Officials in hard-hit Lee County continued search and rescue efforts Monday. Authorities said at least 23 people died after a minimum of one tornado cut through the rural Beauregard community, about five miles south of Opelika. Officials expect the death toll might rise as searchers continue to dig through the debris.
Update 9:35 a.m. EST March 4: Authorities in Alabama focused Monday on search and rescue efforts after a deadly tornado descended Sunday on Lee County, leaving a swath of damage at least half a mile wide and a mile long.
At least 23 people died as the storm swept through the region, including a 6-year-old child, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said Monday morning at a news conference.
“I have not seen this type, this level of destruction ever in my experience here in Lee County,” Jones said. “That covers a span back I know for at least 50 years we have not had anything of this nature before.”
Authorities believe more than one tornado might have touched down Sunday in Lee County. Jones said Monday the rural Beauregard community, about five miles south of Opelika, was devastated by the storm.
The area has “lot of mobile homes (and) manufactured-type housing,” Jones said Monday.
“Those were affected the most dramatically from the effects of the storm,” Jones said, describing the damage as “catastrophic.”
“In some locations, the complete residences are gone. The debris field stretches for hundreds and hundreds of yards. We’re finding materials from one location up to half a mile from the original point of where they were located.”
Jones said authorities were initially searching a square mile for survivors, but he added that the grid was likely to widen.
“We have a lot of our first responders … just completely committed to doing everything they can to locate anyone who may be out there still,” he said.
Update 11:30 p.m. EST March 3: President Donald Trump is urging people in Alabama to stay safe.
Trump also warned on social media Sunday night that the severe weather that ravaged parts of the Southeast may not be over.
To the great people of Alabama and surrounding areas: Please be careful and safe. Tornadoes and storms were truly violent and more could be coming. To the families and friends of the victims, and to the injured, God bless you all!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2019
Update 11 p.m. EST March 3: At least 40 people were treated at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama, Sunday following a deadly tornado.
Officials also said patients were sent to nearby hospitals
East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama, says it has received more than 40 patients after a deadly tornado struck Lee County. pic.twitter.com/EFAe3tPQOL— BuzzFeed Storm (@BuzzFeedStorm) March 4, 2019
Update 10:45 p.m. EST March 3: Reports indicate the town of Cairo, Georgia, on the border with Florida, sustained major damage.
Local news outlets are reporting dozens of homes and several businesses were damaged, and people were trapped in their homes from the debris, but there were no reports of injuries or death.
A tornado caused heavy damage just south of downtown Cairo, Georgia, said the city's mayor, Booker Gainor. Dozens of homes and several businesses were damaged or destroyed. No reports of injuries or deaths, but several people were reportedly trapped in their homes.— Jeffrey Burlew (@JeffBurlew) March 4, 2019
In Florida, several thousand Talquin Electric customers in Tallahassee electric were without power.
Original report: Lee County, Alabama, Sheriff Jay Jones confirmed 14 people are dead and more are missing as emergency responders continued sifting through the debris of homes and businesses looking for survivors, WSFA-TV reported.
Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones confirms 14 fatalities from tornado. That number could rise. People are still reported missing. pic.twitter.com/w6UppFeX3T— Sally Pitts (@SallyPitts_WSFA) March 4, 2019
The tornado tore through a section of the county, leaving a swath of rubble several miles long, snapping trees and knocking out power and cell service.
"I can say that at this time we have 14 confirmed fatalities. And again, the search continues. We still have some people that are reported missing," Jones said, according to WRBL-TV.
He also confirmed a number of injured people were taken to area hospitals.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.