UPDATE: Coroner says death toll may rise to at least 20

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A coroner in southeast Alabama says he expects the death toll to rise to at least 20 from an apparent tornado in hard-hit Lee County.

Lee County Coroner Bill Harris told The Associated Press that he has called in help from elsewhere around the state because there were more bodies than his four-person office can handle. Says Harris of the victims in the hard-hit county: "I'd say at least 20 or more."

Earlier Harris told A.Com that "we've still got people being pulled out of rubble." The coroner added: "We're going to be here all night."

Authorities say several tornadoes or possible tornadoes were unleashed by a vast storm system that raked several states in the Southeast on Sunday.

Authorities are blocking traffic to some of the most heavily damaged areas in an Alabama county where the sheriff says at least 14 people are confirmed dead.

Patrol vehicles from the Lee County Sheriff's Office could be seen by an Associated Press reporter as the vehicles blocked Highway 51 into downtown Beauregard. Closer to the devastation, emergency vehicles including ambulances, with lights flashes, were scattered all around. One trained canine had been brought into the area to help the operations.

The area was dark and electricity appeared to be knocked out in many places late Sunday. Pieces of metal debris and tree branches littered the roadside. It was not raining after the storms rolled eastward into Georgia and toward the Carolinas.

Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told media outlets Sunday that at least 14 deaths had been confirmed in the county and some others are reported missing.

An emergency management official says two people are confirmed dead and there are many injuries in a southeast Alabama community hit by an apparent tornado that destroyed several homes.

Spokeswoman Rita Smith with the Lee County Emergency Management Agency says she wasn't authorized to release further details of thee deaths, but says they occurred along with numerous injuries in the community of Beauregard, Alabama.

Authorities reported what appeared to be a large tornado struck Sunday afternoon.

"We've got about 150 first responders out there," Smith told The Associated Press by phone. "They are doing a phenomenal job. Sadly, we know that we have two known confirmed fatalities and many, many injuries."

She says multiple homes have been destroyed or damaged in Beauregard, a community about 60 miles (95 kilometers) east of Montgomery, the state capital.

Meteorlogist Meredith Wyatt with the Birmingham, Alabama, office of the National Weather Service says radar and video evidence showed what looked like a large tornado crossing the area near Beauregard shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday.

Numerous tornado warnings were posted across parts of Alabama and Georgia on Sunday as a severe storm system churned across the Deep South.