(BEAUREGARD, Ala.) — At least 23 people were killed in southeastern Alabama when a slew of tornadoes ripped through the area Sunday, leaving behind “catastrophic” damage, said Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones.
The death toll in rural Lee County likely will rise as rescue crews sift through the debris Monday morning. So far, all of those killed are from the town of Beauregard, a community of roughly 9,000, Jones said.
The youngest killed was a 6-year-old, he said.
In this area, which has many mobile homes, houses were “completely destroyed, nothing left but the slabs — concrete slabs that they existed on,” Jones told Good Morning America Monday.
Jones said he has never seen this level of destruction.
“This is a disaster,” Beauregard resident Douglas Griffin, whose home was destroyed, told ABC News. He said it’s “like a bomb went off.”
Griffin was on his way to the store when the tornado struck. He said he thinks he would’ve been killed if he was home at the time.
“I’m blessed to be alive,” Griffin said.
At least a dozen tornadoes touched down in Alabama, near the Georgia state line, on Sunday, according to data from the National Weather Service. The first one to hit Lee County was at least a half-mile wide with dangerous winds that peaked at 165 mph.
Residents in the storm’s path shared harrowing video on social media Sunday as winds ripped apart entire neighborhoods. One person posted footage of what appeared to be an uprooted metal guardrail wrapped around a tree, while others shared videos of large poles and street lights twisting in the wind.
“Debris is just everywhere,” one Twitter user said. “Parts to people’s houses, random mattress in our driveway, trees down everywhere I can look, power lines down everywhere.”
Beauregard residents Kevin and Becky Boyd they were in their trailer when the tornado hit, rolling the trailer over.
Becky Boyd described it as “terrifying” and the “worst thing you could ever think of happening to you.”
They feel lucky to have escaped alive, but Kevin Boyd told ABC News, “We lost everything. One day you got everything, next day you ain’t got nothing.”
Over 10 people were missing as of Monday morning, Jones said.
Drones equipped with heat-seeking devices were deployed to look for survivors overnight, but the teams on the ground were forced to wait for morning light.
Jones said the debris is scattered over at least a one-square-mile.
East Alabama Medical Center said it has received more than 40 patients injured in the tornadoes and more are expected to arrive. Some of the patients have been sent to surrounding hospitals.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has issued a statewide state of emergency.
“Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today,” Ivey wrote on Twitter on Sunday evening.
President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that he has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to give “A Plus” treatment to Alabama.
On Sunday, the president tweeted, “To the families and friends of the victims, and to the injured, God bless you all!”
An average of 80 people die annually from tornadoes in the United States, although just 10 died in 2018, according to data from the National Weather Service.
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