"We didn't know when it was going to be over": Alabama hit with devastating tornadoes

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. -- On the first night of spring, tornado watches are in effect in Florida and the Georgia and Carolina coasts. Alabama was hit hard on Monday, with at least eight confirmed tornadoes. Jacksonville was hit with an EF3, with winds at 120 mph. 

In one apartment complex, the roof was sheared off. And from above, it looks like a dollhouse with rooms -- and lives -- fully exposed. The complex is fully insured but the building with 70 apartments is a total loss, part of a trail of ruin through the whole state.

The roof was blown off an Alabama apartment complex after a tornado. CBS News

In upper Alabama, punishing winds hit hard, ripping off roofs, blowing transformers, dropping hail the size of baseballs and leaving a swath of ruin. 

Drone video shows the path of the storm, with many homes completely leveled. At nearby Jacksonville State University, residence halls and apartment complexes took a beating. No one was killed: The school's 8,500 students are on spring break, and residents here had lots of advance storm warning.

"It's more devastating than I thought," said Carolyn Parker, 71. She rode out the storm praying with her 94-year-old mother. They lost six trees -- including one that crushed the roof of their home, where they've lived for the last half-century.

Destruction from storms that slammed Alabama on March 19, 2018. CBS News

"We didn't know when it was going to be over," Parker said. "I don't know how to tell you just how shook up we are."

In Alabama, five National Weather Service teams are sizing up all this destruction. More teams went to Georgia, where punishing winds battered neighborhoods outside Atlanta. The same storm system now could menace 10 million people living from Jacksonville, Florida to Charleston, South Carolina.

  • Mark Strassmann
    Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.