The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
23 Dead as Tornado Pummels Lee County, AL in Further Sign 'Tornado Alley' Is Moving East
"I cannot recall, at least in the last 50 years, and longer than that, a situation where we have had this type, this loss of life that we experienced today," Jones told CBS affiliate WRBL-TV.
There are children among the dead, Jones further told The Associated Press. He said the death toll could rise, but that search and rescue efforts had to pause Sunday night because the amount of debris made the work unsafe in the dark.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Birmingham, Alabama issued a tornado emergency at 2:09 p.m. Sunday for Lee County, AccuWeather reported. The tornado was part of an extreme weather event Sunday that saw several tornadoes touch down across the Southeast as part of a series of storms, The Associated Press reported.
The incident comes a little less than six months after a Northern Illinois University study found that tornado frequency was trending away from the traditional "tornado alley" of the Great Plains towards the more densely populated Midwest and Southeast. This is bad news for the South, where tornadoes are more deadly because of higher population density, a high number of vulnerable mobile homes and a greater chance of tornadoes occurring at night.
Researchers told CBS at the time that the eastward shift of tornadoes was related to the eastward push of dry air from the desert into the plains, shifting the "Dry Line" between dry desert air and warm, wet Gulf of Mexico air along which most tornadoes occur.
Study author Dr. Victor Gensini of Northern Illinois University told CBS this shift could be due to climate change.
"It's not a big jump to say that climate change is causing this shift east. The hypothesis and computer simulations support what we are observing and what we expect in the future," Gensini told CBS.
Sunday's tornado was at least half a mile wide and measured an F3 on the Fujita scale according to initial NWS calculations. The Fujita scale assesses tornado wind speed and corresponding destruction from zero to five. An F3 tornado has a wind speed of 158 to 206 miles per hour.
The storm destroyed homes and knocked out power in Beauregard, Alabama and destroyed around 20 homes in Smiths Station, Alabama, CBS News reported.
"Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today. Praying for their families & everyone whose homes or businesses were affected," Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a Tweet Sunday, as CBS reported.
Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to Sunday's tornado as the first in Lee County, AL. There have in fact been 40 tornadoes in Lee County since 1950, according to NOAA's Storm Events Database, not including Sunday's storms.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.