Several tornadoes hit the Southeast Sunday afternoon, killing at least 22 people in one Alabama county on the USA's deadliest day for tornadoes in almost 6 years.
The death count could rise, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told local station WSFA as people are still reported missing. Emergency management officials said crews are searching through debris in the county, about 60 miles east of Montgomery, where at least one tornado destroyed multiple homes.
The tornado wrecked an area several miles long and a fourth-of-a-mile wide, Jones told WRBL-TV. Numerous injuries were reported in the community of Beauregard, emergency management spokesperson Rita Smith said, where two deaths were confirmed. Details about the deaths were not immediately available.
More than 40 patients went to East Alabama Medical Center, the hospital said. Debris also closed part of Highway 431, according to the Alabama Department of Transportation. After issuing a state of emergency for severe weather on Feb. 23, Governor Kay Ivey extended it statewide Sunday night.
Sunday was also the USA's deadliest March day for tornadoes since March 2, 2012, when 40 died.
As of late Sunday, there were 26 reports of tornadoes in the South, according to preliminary data from the Storm Prediction Center.
Damaging tornadoes also hit Georgia on Sunday afternoon, AccuWeather said. Powerful winds or a tornado destroyed several mobile homes in rural Talbotton 80 miles from Atlanta, said Ann Erenheim, director of the Talbot County Emergency Management Agency.
Six to eight people sustained minor injuries, Ereheim said, but there were no known fatalities.
Several people were trapped in their homes in Cairo following another tornado, local reports said. Near Macon, severe weather snapped power poles and destroyed a barn a Peach County Emergency Management Agency spokesperson said.
In the Florida panhandle, the National Weather Service said another tornado toppled trees and stopped traffic on part of Interstate 10. Weather service meteorologist Don Harrigan said tornadoes also touched the ground in Alabama's Geneva and Henry Counties.
The tornado that hit Lee County, Alabama, was the USA's deadliest single tornado since April 27, 2014 when a tornado struck Vilonia, Arkansas.
It was also Alabama's deadliest tornado day since the infamous April 27, 2011 outbreak.
Severe weather was expected to continue into Sunday evening. Tornado watches end as late as 11 p.m. EST for parts of Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, the National Weather Service said.
Areas hit by tornadoes can expect drier, colder conditions Monday, AccuWeather reported. More than 35,000 customers in Alabama and Georgia lost power Sunday following severe thunderstorms.
"Colder air will sweep into the Southeast behind the severe weather with temperatures dropping into the 30s 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 say warm."
There are no tornadoes predicted anywhere in the U.S. on Monday or through the rest of the week, the Storm Prediction Center said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alabama tornado kills at least 22 as severe storms hit the Southeast, officials say