LEE COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - As of 5 p.m. on the second full day of search and rescue operations, the number of fatalities from Sunday’s EF-4 tornado in east Alabama continues to stand at 23. Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said no additional bodies have been located at this point.
The news comes hours after a news conference in which officials released the names of the 23 killed in the devastating tornado. Seven of the victims were from the same family, authorities confirmed.
The victim’s range in age from 6 to 89 and are identified as:
- Armondo (AJ) Hernandez, 6
- Charlotte Ann Miller, 59
- David Dean, 53
- Emmanuiel Jones, 53
- Eric Jamal Stenson, 38
- Felicia Woodall, 22
- Florel Tate Stenson, 63
- Henry Lewis Stenson, 65
- Irma Gomez-Moran 41
- James Henry Tate, 86
- Jimmy Lee Jones, 89
- Jonathan Marquez Bowen, 9
- Maggie Delight Robinson, 57
- Mamie Roberts Koon, 68
- Marshall Lynn Grimes, 59
- Mary Louise Jones, 83
- Mykala Waldon, 8
- Raymond Robinson Jr., 63
- Ryan Pence, 22
- Sheila Creech, 59
- Taylor Thornton, 10
- Tresia Robinson, 62
- Vicki Braswell, 69
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said each victim was positively identified and their remains have been released to area funeral homes. Each case was handled one at a time, Harris said, and he added they had to make absolutely sure the victim was who they thought they were before a release was made.
Harris said the number of people missing has been reduced to two as of late Tuesday evening. One person was found in a Georgia hospital. That person is a member of the same family that lost seven family members in the tornado.
Search efforts are continuing but have been narrowed down to specific areas of concerns in the hardest hit areas, Jones said. Heavy equipment is being brought in to help move material during the search. Jones also confirmed that there hasn’t been a single arrest made, to date, against suspected looters.
Assessment teams with the National Weather Service continue to update details on the twister, which is now considered an EF-4 with winds upwards of 175 mph. NWS Meteorologist in Charge Chris Darden had previously said the track indicated the tornado was nearly a mile wide.
Now, working with NWS offices in Georgia, they’ve determined the tornado stayed on the ground for nearly 70 miles. Another tornado, classified as an EF-2, took a similar path from Macon County into Lee County and had a 29 mile path, Darden said.
And Darden revealed that another EF-2 tornado in neighboring Barbour County destroyed the NWS’s equipment at the Eufaula Airport. That means much of the weather service’s radar capabilities during Sunday’s tornado outbreak depended heavily on equipment at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. That radar system suffered a “catastrophic failure” just two weeks ago.
Had repairs not been expedited with crews working round the clock, it’s unclear how many more deaths could have resulted. Darden said without it, they may not have been able to see or track Sunday’s tornadoes.
Officials are working on putting together a long-term plan to continue recovery efforts and a smooth transition to more long-term support, according to Lee County EMA Director Kathryn Carson.
Many organizations have begun offering assistance to victims. The Lee County EMA has established a Volunteer Reception Center at Smith Station Baptist Church, (2460 Lee Road 430, Smiths Station) that will open Wednesday and will run from 10 a.m. though 5 p.m. Central, then from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. daily starting Thursday. ALL VOLUNTEERS must report to this designated area for dispatch to areas in need. The minimum age for volunteers is 14 years old.The United Way will be operating the center and providing volunteers with arm bands that will grant them access through check points. The minimum age for volunteers is 14 years old.
Affiliate volunteers inside the state and outside the state should call the EMA office and then register their organization with 211. Volunteer organizations from outside the state should contact their local EMA office and they will correspond with Lee County’s EMA office.
Citizens should register their needs by calling 211. Volunteers and materials will be matched and will provide support to those who have registered.
Go to LeeCoEMA.com for a form to try and find a family or friend. Complete information: Address, phone number. Those without computer access can also call the EMA’s office to try and locate someone.
There is a Red Cross Shelter at Providence Baptist Church and those in need are encouraged to take advantage. The Red Cross also has medicine available for people who have lost their homes.
Debris will be picked up if it is pushed along the county roadway. EMA officials ask that residents do not block ditches gutters and driveways. Debris should be separated by vegetated materials and larger items, such as appliances.
Each household can also collect two bags of ice per day in Opelika starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Members of the media were escorted to the hardest hit area Tuesday morning, the Beauregard community.
Reporter Bethany Davis toured some of the damage and says it’s tough to imagine what happened in this area on Sunday. During Today in Alabama, she showed a home with only a foundation and kitchen counters left.
“Pieces of the house, like the kitchen sink, doors, racks from the dishwasher, a bible, landed about 100 yards away,” Bethany said.
Lee County deputies say the homeowner is currently recovering in a Birmingham Intensive Care Unit.
Donations have been pouring in for storm victims. Officials say they are currently overwhelmed with the response and are asking that donations be held onto until they can find a place to sort them.
The following are the current road closures from the Lee County Sheriff’s Offices as of 9 a.m. Tuesday:
Lee Rd 38, Lee Rd 721, Hwy 51 between Lee Rd 11 and Hwy 80 will be southbound traffic only, no large trucks to include media will be allowed on Hwy 51 south of Lee Rd 11 unless they are utility workers, Lee Rd 294 between Lee Rd 430 and Lee Rd 293. During road closures only residents with ID, their immediate family members and utility crews will be allowed through, all others will be redirected. Travel on Lee Rd 11 and Lee Rd 166 is allowed both north and south bound. Please avoid Lee Rd 11 unless you are a resident or coming to Sanford Middle School to aid the first responders.