At least 23 people, some of them children, have died after a tornado swept through Lee County in Alabama.
Emergency workers were expected to toil into the night on Sunday, pulling bodies and the injured out of the rubble of hundreds of homes.
“The challenge is the sheer volume of the debris where all the homes were located,” Sheriff Jay Jones said in an interview with CNN.
The East Alabama Medical Centre in Opelika said it was treating more than 40 patients as a result of the tornado, and expected to receive more.
Storms, including at least one apparent tornado, uprooted trees and also destroyed homes in neighbouring Georgia, initially knocking out power to 21,000 customers, said Georgia Power spokeswoman Meredith Stone.
Tornado warnings and watches remained in effect for parts of Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
Breaking: Death toll from multiple tornadoes in Lee County, Alabama, rises to 22. pic.twitter.com/mc7kF346Vb
— PM Breaking News (@PMBreakingNews) March 4, 2019
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey warned residents that more severe weather might be on the way and said the state was working to help families who had been impacted.
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said the death toll could yet rise.
“We’ve still got people being pulled out of rubble,” he told the Birmingham News newspaper on Sunday night.
The storm left more than 10,000 customers without power, the Birmingham News said, citing the utility Alabama Power.
To the great people of Alabama and surrounding areas: Please be careful and safe. Tornadoes and storms were truly violent and more could be coming. To the families and friends of the victims, and to the injured, God bless you all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2019
As thousands faced a night without power, temperatures looked set to fall to near freezing following the storm.
“Colder air will sweep into the south-east behind the severe weather with temperatures dropping into the 1 degree [range] 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.”