Rescuers in Alabama were set to resume search operations on Monday after at least two tornadoes killed 23 people, uprooted trees and caused "catastrophic" damage to buildings and roads in the southern US state.
"The devastation is incredible," Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told the local CBS affiliate late Sunday.
"I cannot recall at least in the last 50 years... a situation where we have had this loss of life that we experienced today."
He said the death toll stood at 23, some of them children.
Other people have been hospitalised, some with "very serious injuries," he had earlier told reporters.
Death toll said to rise
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said that the death toll could rise.
"We’ve still got people being pulled out of rubble," he told the Birmingham News newspaper early on Sunday evening. “We’re going to be here all night.”
Severe weather unleashed one of numerous possible tornadoes that threatened the Southern United States on Sunday afternoon. Tornado warnings and watches were in effect for parts of Georgia and Alabama through Sunday evening.
TRT World's Ruby Zaman reports.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey warned residents on Twitter that more severe weather might be on the way. She said the state was working to help families who had been impacted.
"Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today," Ivey wrote on Twitter. "Praying for their families & everyone whose homes or businesses were affected."
The storm left more than 10,000 customers without power, the Birmingham News said, citing the utility Alabama Power.
The East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika said in a statement that it was treating more than 40 patients as a result of the tornado and expected to receive more. Some patients had been sent to other hospitals, it added.
Severe weather unleashed one of many possible tornadoes that threatened the Southern United States on Sunday afternoon. Tornado warnings and watches were in effect for parts of Georgia and Alabama through Sunday evening.
Lee County Schools announced on Twitter that campuses in the county would be closed on Monday.
The National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Alabama, said it was sending three survey teams out on Monday to assess damage in Autauga, Macon, Lee and Barbour counties.
“Please stay out of damaged areas so first responders can do their job,” the NWS office said on Twitter.
The storm initially left 17,000 customers without power in Alabama, but crews were able to reduce that number to 6,000 on Sunday, said Michael Sznajderman, spokesman for the utility Alabama Power.
As thousands faced a night without power, temperatures looked set to fall to near freezing following the storm.
“Colder air will sweep into the Southeast behind the severe weather with temperatures dropping into the 30s (1C) southward to central Georgia and across most of Alabama by Monday morning,” AccuWeather meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said.
“Those without power who rely on electric heat need to find ways to stay warm,” she added.