The first twister warning in central Alabama went out round 1 p.m. Sunday. In the hours that adopted, a cluster of storms ripped by way of the Southeast, spawning a number of tornadoes, killing a minimum of 14 and leaving a path of rubble.
Tornadoes have been reported in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. The 14 reported deaths have been all in Lee County, Ala., the place two tornadoes — one a minimum of a half-mile large — wrecked houses and uprooted bushes. Dozens of individuals have been despatched to hospitals, and search-and-rescue groups continued to comb by way of the broken areas.
More than 150 individuals have been a part of the search-and-rescue operations close to the Lee County communities of Smiths Station and Beauregard, which is about 60 miles east of Montgomery, stated Rita Smith, a spokeswoman for the county’s emergency administration company.
Sheriff Jay Jones of Lee County stated in an interview with CNN that 14 individuals have been killed. The East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Ala., had acquired greater than 40 sufferers and anticipated extra, stated John Atkinson, a spokesman for the heart. He stated the circumstances of the sufferers various.
In Georgia, Booker T. Gainor, the mayor of Cairo, told The Tallahassee Democrat that a tornado hit just south of downtown, damaging dozens of homes and businesses.
“We have a lot of trees down, debris and power lines,” he told The Democrat. “We have trees completely through houses. You would think a hurricane came after this, the way it looks.”
President Trump said in a tweet on Sunday night that people in and around Alabama should “be careful and safe.”
“Tornadoes and storms were truly violent and more could be coming,” he said. “To the families and friends of the victims, and to the injured, God bless you all!”
Alex Miller, 27, was driving with two passengers from Savannah, Ga., to his home in Birmingham, Ala., on Sunday evening when they were alerted on their cellphones that tornadoes might be incoming. They stopped at a gas station in Columbus, Ga., to let one wave of the storm pass, and continued to head north, hoping to break through the worst of the weather during the lull.
As they neared Smiths Station, Ala., they passed a gas station with a billboard toppled over. They then passed a police blockade diverting southbound traffic off the main roads. The skies darkened, the rain grew stronger — “all the ominous signs,” Mr. Miller said.
“The plan quickly pivoted from ‘We need to drive north’ to ‘We need to pull over and seek shelter immediately,’” he said.
Mr. Miller pulled into a gas station in Smiths Station and sheltered in a hallway in the back with about 10 other people, including children, and a dog. The power was out inside and the light outside continued to dim. It was “post-sunset dark,” Mr. Miller said. The wind whipped outside, in what appeared to be one of the tornadoes to hit the Lee County area.
“The energy was pretty tense,” he said.
After the worst weather abated, Mr. Miller said he got in the car and drove north, past debris strewn around the roads. Within 15 minutes, he saw sunshine.
Chief Byron Prather of the Opelika Fire Department told the television station WSFA 12 that several mobile homes and houses were destroyed in Lee County.
“There’s debris laying everywhere,” he said. “There was a mobile home frame in the middle of the road at one time. There’s personal belongings in the trees. There’s insulation, there’s building material in the trees.”
Meredith Wyatt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Ala., said the strong line of storms moved quickly across the area on Sunday afternoon.
She said it was unclear how many tornadoes touched down but said the service issued at least six warnings on Sunday afternoon.
The service will send teams on Monday to survey the damage to determine the path of the tornadoes, their intensity and how long they stayed on the ground.
Nearly eight years after a tornado outbreak that devastated major cities and small towns alike, Alabama remains wary of severe weather and the menace of tornadoes.
After the 2011 outbreak, which spawned more than 60 tornadoes in Alabama and led to more than 230 fatalities in the state, some communities ordered upgrades to storm shelters, and residents became extraordinarily sensitive about even the threat of poor weather.
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