Photo credit: Courtesy Talquin Electric Cooperative
By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Deadly tornadoes roared across the southeastern states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida on Sunday, leaving in their wake at least 23 fatalities, including several children. More than 40 people were injured.
Sunday’s death toll more than doubles the 10 people killed by tornadoes nationwide in 2018, according to AL.com reporter William Thornton.That was the fewest number of fatalities from tornadoes since unofficial records began in 1875, USA Today reported.
Twelve Deaths Reported in Lee County, Alabama
In Lee County, Alabama, Sheriff Jay Jones told the Birmingham News that at least 12 of those deaths occurred in an area about six miles south of the city of Opelika.
Jones added that he is worried that the death toll could rise because there are “several people who are still unaccounted for.”
For the time being, the search and rescue efforts are concentrated in Beauregard, one of the hardest-hit areas, particularly in the mobile home communities.
Lee County coroner Bill Harris told the newspaper that drones with heat-seeking equipment are being used in the search for survivors. He added that “the victims range in age from a child as young as six to older adults.” The victims’ identities have not been released.
Georgia Governor Declares State of Emergency in Three Counties
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency on Monday in the three counties that were hard hit by Sunday’s violent storm system, CNN reported Monday.
"With extensive storm damage in Grady, Harris, and Talbot Counties, it is imperative that we take swift action to help affected Georgians and deploy state resources in ongoing response and recovery efforts,” Kemp said in a statement.
The declaration will free up state resources to assist the southwest counties respond to the widespread devastation.
Kemp was expected to take an aerial tour of affected areas in the afternoon.
FEMA Team Will Assist in Florida Search and Rescue Efforts
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey tweeted that as a result of her conversation with Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long, FEMA is “sending a team to assist. Right now, the primary focus is on search and rescue efforts, as there are many people unaccounted for.”
A preliminary report from the National Weather Service confirmed that the tornado that struck Lee County was “at least an EF-3 and one-half mile wide.”
An EF-3 tornado can generate winds between 136 and 165 mph. It can cause severe damage, including tearing roofs completely off well-constructed buildings, uprooting a majority of trees, overturning trains and lifting vehicles off the ground.