Tragedy struck the heart of Alabama on Sunday, at least 23 people were killed in southeastern Alabama after a number of damaging tornadoes ripped through the area, officials said.
The death toll in Lee County will almost certainly rise as search and rescue crews go back out Monday morning. So far, all of those killed are from the town of Beauregard, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told ABC News.
Drones that are equipped with heat-seeking devices were sent out to look for survivors overnight, but the teams on the ground had to wait for morning light, Jones said.
Officials have not yet released details about any of the victims.
Near the Alabama/Georgia state line, at least a dozen tornadoes touched down in Alabama 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 rose to 165 mph.
Residents who witnessed the storm’s path shared frightening 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 video of large poles and street lights twisting in the wind.
“I need prayers tornado just destroyed my house,” one Twitter user wrote.
“Debris is just everywhere … parts to people’s houses, random mattress in our driveway, trees down everywhere I can look, power lines down everywhere,” another user added.
More than 150 first responders were on the ground in the initial wake of the storm, according to the Lee County Emergency Management Agency.
East Alabama Medical Center said it received more than 40 patients injured in the tornadoes and more are expected to arrive. Some of the patients had to be sent to surrounding hospitals.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended a previous state of emergency declaration in the wake of the severe weather.
“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.