Houses lay shredded and entire neighborhoods flattened in the wake of Sunday’s storms in Lee County, Alabama, where the deaths occurred. Sheriff Jay Jones of Lee County said it was as if someone “took a giant knife and just scraped the ground.”
Jones said several people were still unaccounted for and crews were sorting through the debris in hopes of finding survivors.
Bill Harris, the Lee County coroner, said the three children among the dead were a 6-year-old, a 9-year-old who died at the hospital and a 10-year-old. He said he had been told that in at least one case multiple members of the same family had died.
Jones said officials had begun to identify some of the victims and he expected the death toll to rise. Several people — a number in the double digits — were still unaccounted for, he said, without giving the exact figure.
Dozens of people were sent to hospitals Sunday with injuries, with at least two in intensive care. The East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama, had received more than 60 patients as of Sunday night, according to John Atkinson, a spokesman for the center.
The National Weather Service said officials would be surveying at least five suspected tornado tracks in southeast Alabama on Monday. On Sunday, the weather service said it believed one of the tornadoes had been at least an EF-3 storm, with wind speeds of at least 136 mph. Tornadoes were also reported to the south and east in Georgia and Florida.
Federal officials estimated Monday that 1,120 housing units had been damaged in the storm.
At a news conference Monday morning, Jones said more than one tornado may have touched down in Beauregard, an unincorporated community of 8,000 to 10,000 people south of Opelika, and much of the area was without electric power.
The sheriff said dozens of homes were destroyed and that some debris appeared to have been thrown more than a half-mile by the winds. He said officials had identified many of the dead but were still trying to contact their families.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.