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'I'm Still Thanking God I'm Among the Living': At Least 23 Killed as a Dozen Tornadoes Slash the South

Tornado survivors hug on a rooftop (Photo: screen capture)

A deadly winter storm racing across the country is pounding the northeast today. But before heading north, the same weather system produced devastating tornadoes in the south.

Authorities believe one tornado in Alabama killed at least 23 people, and that death toll is expected to rise.

Officials say more than a dozen tornadoes reportedly struck parts of Alabama and Georgia, knocking homes off their foundations, leveling trees, destroying cars and leaving thousands without power.

"I was sitting there praying, asking the Lord to protect everybody around us," Lee County, AL resident Sharon Poole said.

"The devastation is incredible," Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said.

Scott Fillmer, also from Lee County, described the horrifying scene. "I looked out the window and it was nothing but black, but you could hear that freight train noise," he said.

In Alabama, authorities say a powerful EF4 tornado, with wind speeds of 170 miles per hour, tore down a country road leaving a path of damage a half-mile wide.

"It went from dark to daylight; I just watched it just suck the clouds in and everything," Smith's Station, AL resident Donald Estes said.

"I'm still thanking God I'm among the living," said John Jones, who has lived in Beauregard, AL for most of his life.

Residents are in shock but trying to move forward and help those in need.

"I've lived here my whole life," said Ryan Posey of Smith's Station. "Me personally, getting out and helping – this is the worst."

The entire state of Alabama is under a state of emergency. Search and rescue workers are looking for survivors, even flying drones with heat-sensing devices attached to them.

Meanwhile, the same winter weather system is dumping snow, sleet and rain from New York to Boston, making for treacherous driving conditions.

In addition, the Midwest and West saw its share of snow and dangerous weather, sending cars and trucks sliding off the roads.

As the storm continues to move, it has affected more than 130 million Americans across the eastern half of the country.

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