At least 23 people killed in tornadoes in Alabama and Georgia

Posted at 8:24 PM, Mar 03, 2019

Nearly two dozen people have been confirmed dead after a series of tornadoes touched down in Alabama and Georgia on Sunday afternoon.

Twenty-three people died in Lee County, Alabama, according to Sheriff Jay Jones. Among the dead are both children and adults, he said.

At least 12 of those deaths occurred in an area about 5 to 6 miles south of Opelika, Alabama, Jones said.

"We have a pretty significant area of damage," Jones told CNN's Ana Cabrera. He estimated a path of destruction about half a mile wide stretched several miles to the east from where the tornado touched down.

Several people have been taken to a hospital with serious injuries, Jones said.

Authorities were prioritizing search and rescue efforts on Sunday evening, Jones said, but were hampered by the dwindling light.

It appeared Sunday evening that two tornadoes hit Lee County back-to-back within the span of one hour, CNN Meteorologist Gene Norman said.

At least a dozen tornadoes touched down in Alabama and Georgia on Sunday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

Footage broadcast by CNN affiliate WRBL showed trees destroyed by the powerful winds and debris from leveled homes piled up on the side of the road.

Multiple homes suffered significant damage, Jones told WRBL, and multiple agencies are working to assist in the search for injured people inside residences.

Norman said that according to the National Weather Service, an airport in Eufaula, Alabama, along the Alabama-Georgia border was destroyed, along with a fire station.

Selma, Alabama, where crowds had gathered to mark the anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," the 1965 civil rights march incident, suffered thunderstorms, Norman said, but no tornadoes.

The first tornado watches were issued around noon, but were expected to remain in place for parts of Georgia and South Carolina through 11 p.m. ET Sunday, Norman said.

The tornadoes are part of the same system that is expected to bring winter weather to much of the Eastern United States this week, Norman said.