BEAUREGARD, AL — March 5, 2019 — A massive EF4 tornado ripped through parts of Alabama and Georgia on Sunday, March 3, killing 23 people and injuring ninety more, according to the Associated Press. The Alabama tornado left a path of destruction nearly a mile wide and over 26 miles long, leveling buildings and ripping some homes from their foundations. Some families lost multiple family members as the tornado demolished entire streets and mobile home parks.
Of the 23 people killed, the oldest was 89 and the youngest was 6-year-old Armando Hernandez Jr., who was pulled right from his father’s arms by the strength of the storm, according to the AP. The tornado’s winds reached 170 mph, strong enough to scrape up the earth itself in some places.
The tornado touched down just after 2 p.m. Sunday on the Macon County/Lee County line, only minutes after the first tornado warning was issued at 1:58 p.m., according to National Weather Service meteorologist Gary Goggins, as reported by the Washington Post. With little time to prepare, residents took shelter wherever they could, in laundry rooms, bathtubs, and under beds.
The worst of the damage is in Beauregard, AL, an unincorporated rural community of about 10,000 people near the Georgia state line. According to USA Today, Lee County Sherriff Jay Jones described the aftermath, saying, “It looks almost as if someone took a giant knife and just scraped the ground. There are slabs where homes normally stood. There is debris everywhere.”
The EF4 tornado was the strongest of at least 18 tornados that struck across Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina as a string of severe storms plowed through the Southeastern U.S. on Sunday, according to the AP. As the tornados crossed state lines, so did the damage and debris. According to the Washington Post, the Alabama tornado picked up a billboard in Lee County, AL and dropped it in Georgia. A separate tornado hit Cairo, GA, damaging more than 24 homes out of 10,000. A state of emergency was declared in Alabama and parts of Georgia, with damage reported in all four affected states.
Sunday’s tornados were the deadliest since a category EF5 killed 24 people in Moore, OK in 2013, according to the AP. The tornado’s fatalities are more than twice last year’s total number of tornado-related deaths in the U.S.