Search effort underway with tornado death toll likely to rise


What we know

  • At least 23 people were killed in Lee County, Alabama, by the deadliest tornado since the one that hit Moore, Oklahoma, in 2013.
  • Officials said the death toll was likely to rise.
  • The National Weather Service said the tornado was at least an EF-3 with winds between 136 mph and 165 mph.
  • The tornado was at least a half-mile wide when it touched down in Lee County.
  • People had 20 minutes’ warning to find shelter before the massive tornado devastated the area.

Crews were carrying out an extensive search effort Monday after a devastating tornado outbreak swept across several states in the Deep South and caused a disaster near Auburn, Alabama. The twister that destroyed homes, businesses and lives was one of a dozen reported in Alabama Sunday.

“Houses completely destroyed, homes just basically just slabs left where once stood a home,” Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said. “The contents of one residence we know for a fact was located over 1,000 yards away.”

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Many of the storm victims lived in Beauregard, Alabama, including 6-year-old A.J. Hernandez Jr. On social media, his aunt called him “a precious little man.”

But there were also stories of survival. Cameras caught an emotional moment as a grandmother was reunited with her granddaughter.

Trump to FEMA: Give Alabama “A Plus treatment”

President Trump said on Twitter that he told the Federal Emergency Management Agency to give Alabama “A Plus treatment” in the wake of Sunday’s tornadoes. Mr. Trump said Gov. Kay Ivey has been working closely with the agency.

Workers ride out destructive storm

Damage is seen from a tornado which killed at least 23 people in Beauregard, Alabama, on March 4, 2019. Tami Chappell/AFP/Getty Images

In Smiths Station, Alabama, the owner of a popular bar watched as the Buck Wild Saloon was gutted to the studs. David McBride was sitting in his truck just feet away, CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.

“I seen the trash swirling in the air across the hill over there, and I said, ‘Oh, no, this ain’t good,'” McBride told CBS affiliate WRBL-TV.

Just across the street, Charlie Patel was inside as his gas station was torn to pieces. “I’m on the counter, and 10 seconds the tornado come, and everything is gone, everything destroyed,” Patel said.

“Gone in the blink of an eye”

Alabama wasn’t the only state to see some serious storms. There were more than a dozen reports of tornadoes in Georgia, CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.

In Talbotton, Georgia, homes were left in piles of wood and cars were tossed. Folks in nearby Ellerslie said everything was gone before they even knew what happened.

“Everything that’s been built for 19 years, gone in the blink of an eye,” Brittny Gordy told CBS affiliate WRBL-TV.

Death toll surpasses number of 2018 tornado deaths

The death toll in Lee County, Alabama, is more than twice the number of people killed by tornadoes last year, CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports. In 2018, tornadoes killed 10 people across the U.S.