The National Weather Service in Birmingham said the Sunday afternoon that killed 24 in Lee County was likely an EF-4 with winds up to 170 mph.
The monster tornado that cut through Alabama Sunday was the deadliest in the U.S. since 2013, according to the National Weather Service.
Twenty-three people died in the afternoon twister that hit Lee County in the southeast part of the state. The number of fatalities is the greatest in the U.S. since an EF-5 tornado killed 24 people in Moore, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013.
The death toll in Alabama may rise, officials said, as search, rescue and recovery efforts continues. Three children, ages 6, 9 and 10 years old, are among the fatalities.
The NWS in Birmingham said preliminary assessments show the Lee County storm was likely an EF-4 with winds at around 170 mph. The Moore tornado had maximum winds of some 210 mph.
The Lee County deaths are more than double the 10 tornado-related fatalities that occurred in 2018, which had the fewest for a calendar year on record, according to weather.com. The tornado is believed to have been about a mile wide and spanned about 24 miles in length, leaving a path of destruction as it made its way through Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
Sunday’s deaths are the first tornado-related fatalities in Alabama since November 2016.
Three other tornadoes were also reported in Sunday: south of Tuskegee in Macon County into Lee County; County Road 79 in Barbour County; and Eufaula in Barbour County. All were at least EF-1 tornadoes.
The Eufaula storm was likely on the high-end of the EF-1 scale with tornado damage confirmed northwest of Eufaula, mostly concentrated on County Road 79, south of Highway 82. EF-1 tornadoes have winds of between 86 and 110 mph.
The deadliest day in Alabama came on April 17, 2011 when 238 people in the state were killed by a wave of tornadoes. The total death toll on that day across the U.S. topped 324, making it one of the deadliest ever recorded.