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Alabama's Tornado Death Toll Of 23 Is Final, Lee County Sheriff Says

Everyone who had been reported missing after violent tornadoes struck eastern Alabama Sunday is now accounted for and authorities said Wednesday that they don't expect the death toll of 23 people to change. The mission is now about recovery, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said.

There had been fears that the toll might rise by as many as seven or eight people — but in a midday briefing, Jones said, "I'm very pleased to announce... we are now confident we have accounted for all of the individuals."

Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said it's unlikely there are any further victims. There had been confusion in one case, he said, in which a man was entered into a hospital under the wrong name.

As residents cope with the damage and loss from the weekend's storm, the National Weather Service is warning more tornadoes may be on the way, according to member station WBHM's Miranda Fulmore.

"The bigger focus now starts to shift to Saturday, especially Saturday evening," said the NWS's Kevin Laws, in a report Fulmore filed for NPR. "We have another storm system — very powerful — that will be entering the state."

Alabama was hit by at least 11 tornadoes during last weekend's storm, Laws said, adding that his agency's assessments are nearly complete. The worst was the Beauregard-Smiths Station tornado that was rated at EF-4. That tornado's winds reached 170 mph as it traveled 70 miles into Georgia, Laws said.

On Tuesday, President Trump approved Gov. Kay Ivey's request for an expedited major disaster declaration for Lee County, Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Brian Hastings said.

As part of the recovery process, disaster assistance crews will spend Wednesday traveling through affected communities, attempting to sign up anyone who needs financial help.

Ivey is scheduled to inspect the tornado damage today, with Trump slated to visit on Friday.

On Tuesday, two corporations volunteered to pay for "most, if not all, of the funeral expenses" for all 23 tornado victims, Harris said. But as of Wednesday, more offers have come in, including a $50,000 commitment from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.