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'Everything blew apart': Tornado survivors in Lee County, Alabama, survey the destruction

"I've never seen something like it before in my life," one resident said.

The owner of a popular bar in Lee County, Alabama, was looking forward to celebrating the six-year anniversary of his watering hole soon.

But after tornadoes that ripped across the county Sunday, killing at least 23, left little of the Buck Wild Saloon standing, David McBride said he's going to have to find a new location for a bash.

He recalled that he was outside the bar in his truck when a tornado hit and "everything blew apart."

The bar's roof and walls were ripped away, but a cross remained standing.

"The significance is — Jesus died for me, and he held my hand yesterday," McBride said.

He said they had put the cross up before opening the bar, and a preacher friend had "blessed the place."

"And it’s been really good," McBride said, adding that the bar would have been open for six years April 6. "And we were planning a big anniversary party. Now, we’re looking for a location to have it."

The tornadoes left a trail of destruction, including in the rural community of Beauregard.

Officials said the death toll was expected to rise as crews dug through the rubble Monday searching for those who were reported missing.

Volunteers and residents clean up debris after a tornado in Beauregard, Alabama, on March 4, 2019.Jessica McGowan / Getty Images

"I'm still thanking God I'm among the living," John Jones, who has lived in Beauregard most of his life, told The Associated Press.

Liz Hickman was at her home with her two granddaughters and their mother when she heard what "sounded like a train or something coming through." She said the duration of the tornado "felt like forever, but it didn't last maybe three to four minutes."

"And I got up and opened the door and looked out, and it was just everything was just gone ... my next door neighbor, her trailer was completely gone," Hickman said. "It was awful, it was awful. I've never seen something like it before in my life. It was bad."

Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said many residences were lost, and the many mobile homes in the rural area were especially affected.

Joey Roush walks through debris at his mother's home after it was destroyed by a tornado in Beauregard, Alabama, on March 4, 2019.Tami Chappell / AFP - Getty Images

"We’re finding materials from one location up to half a mile away from the original point of where they were located," Jones said. "I would describe the damage that we have seen in the area as catastrophic."

Jones, who has been sheriff for about a decade, said he had never seen such a level of destruction in the county.

"It is overwhelming," he said. "It looks almost as if someone took a giant knife and just scraped the ground."