Searches find no more deaths in Alabama; toll stands at 23
BEAUREGARD, Ala. — All those listed as missing have been found and searches ended with no additional bodies discovered among the shattered homes, splintered pines and broken lives devastated by a tornado in rural Alabama, leaving the death toll at 23, authorities said Wednesday.
“We are still in standby mode on the outside chance they find somebody else, which is not likely,” Lee County Coroner Bill Harris told a news conference.
Law enforcement officials had accounted for the final seven people on their list of those reported missing after the Sunday storm, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said. All of them were alive.
“The situation will now move, as it should, to a recovery,” Jones said.
A violent storm system that spawned tornadoes across the Southeast on Sunday stuck hardest in Alabama, where a powerful EF4 tornado carved a path nearly a mile wide through the small community of Beauregard. The 23 who died included a 6-year-old boy and a couple in their 80s.
Pope Francis sent condolences Wednesday to tornado victims, while President Donald Trump said he will visit Friday to see the damage.
The National Weather Service has confirmed at least 34 tornadoes hit Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina on Sunday.
The monstrous twister that smashed Beauregard with winds of 170 mph was the deadliest U.S. tornado in nearly six years. It crossed the Chattahoochee River into western Georgia and inflicted more damage along a path stretching roughly 70 miles.
Meanwhile, Alabama and several other southern states will be under threat of more severe storms — including the risk of some tornadoes — with a new system that’s arriving in the South this weekend, forecasters said.
A vast part of the region from Texas to Georgia will be under threat of severe weather Saturday, the national Storm Prediction Center warned. The area at risk of storms is home to 41 million people and includes major cities such as Dallas, New Orleans and Atlanta.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was praying for the dead and injured, saying he is spiritually close to all those who are suffering and grieving.
Francis sent a telegram of condolences Wednesday to the bishop of Mobile, Alabama, the Most Rev. Thomas Rodi, saying he was saddened to learn of the “tragic loss of life and injuries.” Francis prayed for peace and strength for the survivors, and that God “may grant eternal rest to the dead, especially the children, and healing and consolation to the injured and those who grieve.”
The Beauregard tornado was the deadliest to hit the U.S. since May 2013, when an EF5 twister killed 24 people in Moore, Okla.