At least 23 people were killed, including children, in the deadliest U.S. tornado outbreak in six years after twisters tore through Alabama, Georgia and Florida, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said. The two tornadoes that touched down in Lee County on Sunday wrought a trail of “catastrophic” damage, leaving an untold number of people without homes and in shelters and countless others mourning their loved ones.
Jones said he fears the death toll may continue to rise as recovery efforts continued in the early morning Monday. Rescuers deployed infrared drones, helicopters and K-9 units to search for signs of life amid a wide swath of debris, which made initial rescue efforts difficult, Jones said.
“It looks like someone took a giant knife and scraped the ground,” Jones told reporters Monday, describing a scene of obliterated homes mostly along two rural paths, Lee County Roads 38 and 39.
Most victims were concentrated in a one-square mile area, though some debris was carried as far as a half mile away from its point of origin, Jones said.
Residents had precious few minutes to brace for the storm. The first tornado warning was issued at 1:58 p.m. — five minutes before the initial damage reports in Lee County were received, National Weather Service meteorologist Gary Goggins said in Birmingham…..