Rescue crews were desperately searching for a missing 2-year-old boy on Tuesday after tornadoes devastated parts of Georgia over the weekend. Meanwhile, authorities continued to work to reunite families and assess the damage from severe storms that killed at least 20 people across three states.
At least 15 people were killed in Georgia alone, with an additional four dead in Mississippi and one in Florida after tornadoes and powerful thunderstorms scoured the southeast region over the weekend.
In Dougherty County, Georgia, where four people were killed, authorities said they were still searching for a missing 2-year-old boy, Detrez Green, after he became separated from his parents when a tornado hit their mobile home on Sunday.
“He slipped away from her arms right as the storm hit,” Sherrell Byrd, a spokeswoman for the county’s emergency management agency told NBC News, citing the boy’s mother’s account.
The toddler’s mom, Adijah Rainey, said her son was “last seen walking through the kitchen and towards the back door of their mobile home,” Byrd said.
Byrd said the family’s power was out and they were unable to tell authorities the child was missing until they arrived at a relative’s home on Sunday evening.
“Our teams have been working since Sunday to find the child,” she said. “We have a massive search out there today.”
The ongoing search comes a day after Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal expanded a state of emergency from seven counties to 16 and extended the order through Jan. 30.
A Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokesman told NBC News on Tuesday their teams were still working to assess the extent of the damage across the 16 counties.
In Mississippi, the state emergency management service said Tuesday afternoon that more than 1,400 had been damaged across eight counties, with 715 of them either destroyed or sustaining major damage.
Officials in both states pushed President Donald Trump and federal agencies to send “much needed assistance.”
Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said Tuesday he hopes FEMA grants an expedited request from Gov. Deal to give federal assistance to the county.
Cohilas said parts of the county had been suffering for nearly a month after a first round of severe storms on Jan. 2. The governor requested an expedited major disaster declaration for the state of Georgia on Jan. 9, a FEMA spokesman told NBC News.
“I certainly hope that FEMA actually expedites this one because we have a lot of folks who are in need,” Cohilas said at a press conference on Tuesday. “We have a large number of folks that are completely displaced and without food.”
FEMA said joint federal and state preliminary assessments began in impacted counties on Jan. 11. Officials added that Deal’s request was under review.
Regarding the weekend’s storm, the agency said it was working in coordination with local officials to coordinate federal resources that may be requested. A FEMA incident management team was on the ground in their regional office in Atlanta to support response and recover activities, the agency said. FEMA liaison officers were also deployed to emergency centers in both Georgia and Mississippi to support response activities.
On Monday, Cohilas pleaded directly to the president.
"I'm asking President Trump to cut through the red tape and get people on the damned ground here," he said.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant also said he had dispatched a letter to Trump asking for help after four people were killed in his state.
Across the South, 50 unconfirmed tornadoes were reported from Thursday to Sunday as four severe storms moved south from Georgia and Mississippi into the Florida Panhandle, said Frank Giannasca, a senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel.