Officials beg Trump to send help after storms kill 20 across South

Desperate officials pleaded with President Donald Trump to send federal assistance Monday after at least 20 people were killed by storms and tornadoes that caused devastation authorities likened to the impact of a nuclear blast.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said he had dispatched a letter to Trump pleading for help after four people were killed in his state. He said more 1,000 homes were damaged in Hattiesburg and surrounding Forrest County alone — 239 of which were obliterated.

RELATED: Tornadoes in the last week

In Dougherty County, Georgia, where four people were killed, county commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said Monday that he has been "begging FEMA for boots on the ground," referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"I'm asking President Trump to cut through the red tape and get people on the damned ground here," he said.

In addition to the 19 people confirmed to have died in central and south Georgia and in Mississippi, a 20th person was confirmed Monday to have been killed in northern Florida over the weekend.

More from NBC News: Up to 20 Dead After Tornadoes, Thunderstorms Batter Southeast

Shayne Morgan, emergency management director in Columbia County, told NBC News that an unidentified person was struck by a tree that fell during the height of the storm. The victim died at a hospital, Morgan said Monday.

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.

RELATED: Deadly tornadoes hit Georgia, Mississippi and Florida

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Deadly tornadoes hit Georgia, Mississippi and Florida
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Deadly tornadoes hit Georgia, Mississippi and Florida

Damaged trees and homes along Magnolia Street in Hattiesburg, Miss., after a tornado struck on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Four people died and at least 25 were injured in the storm.

(John Fitzhugh/Biloxi Sun Herald/TNS via Getty Images)

A child's shoe lies in the mud at the Big Pine Estates Mobile Home Park after a tornado struck the residential area on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

Residents survey damage after a tornado struck a residential area on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

A damaged gas station is pictured after a tornado struck on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

Residents survey damage at Big Pine Estates Mobile Home Park after a tornado struck the residential area on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

An empty slab is pictured next to damaged mobile homes at the Big Pine Estates Mobile Home Park after a tornado struck the residential area on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

A damaged car is seen after a tornado struck a residential area on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

Residents work on the roof of their home after a tornado struck the residential area on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

A tractor trailer lies on its side after a tornado struck a residential area on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

Deanna Furlow holds her cat Buttercream as she surveyed and removed belongings from a friends home after a tornado struck the residential area on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

Residents of Magnolia Street in Hattiesburg, Miss., take a break from cleaning up after a tornado hit the area on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Four people died and at least 25 were injured in the storm.

(John Fitzhugh/Biloxi Sun Herald/TNS via Getty Images)

A 40-foot container was found flipped over several cars and an electric utility pole had come crashing down on the vehicles on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017 after a tornado touched down in Medley, Fla.

(C.M. Guerrero/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)

Two women console each other on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017 as they prepare to move out of their apartment building, which was deemed uninhabitable by the City of Hialeah after a tornado damaged the roofs of the building.

(C.M. Guerrero/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)

Lasheree Richardson (L-R), Charlee Daly, Rochelle Vaughn and Deanna Furlow remove belongings from their home after a tornado struck the residential area on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

Residents wait outside the entrance to Big Pine Estates Mobile Home Park after a tornado struck the residential area on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

Tedarron Price carries a chair salvaged from his tornado-damaged house in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Four people died and at least 25 were injured in the storm.

(John Fitzhugh/Biloxi Sun Herald/TNS via Getty Images)

Residents survey damage after a tornado struck a residential area on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

Gabriel Cacabelos surveys the damage after a tree fell on his car on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017 as a tornado touched down in Hialeah, Fla.

(C.M. Guerrero/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)

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The worst of the damage was in Georgia, particularly in Dougherty and Cook counties. Seven deaths were reported in Cook County, where a tornado demolished a mobile home park in Adel, NBC station WLTV reported.

"If you were to see it today, it's like a war zone," Adel Mayor Buddy Duke said at a news conference early Monday evening, his voice cracking with emotion.

"I've never seen the outpouring of love and support in any community that I've seen in the last day and a half," he said. "We're going to rebuild, and we'll be back."

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal expanded a state of emergency from seven counties to 16 on Monday afternoon and extended the order through Jan. 30.

RELATED: Tornado fatalities since 1996

"The cleanup is expected to take weeks in some of these locations," said Danielle Banks, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel. And "it could be days before they're able to complete searches for more victims."

In Dougherty County, "it looks like a nuclear bomb went off," Cohilas said Sunday.

Monday, Cohilas said a search was under way for a missing toddler who was swept away in rushing storm waters. But after four days of round-the-clock emergency operations, "we have exhausted every asset we have," he said.

"The damage that we've suffered in our community is immeasurable," he said. "Our people are suffering. They have no food, no home, no warmth, no hope."

Most of the 200 homes at the Paradise Village mobile home park in Albany were destroyed, Ross Piercy, the property manager, told NBC station WALB. About a dozen were completely washed away and can't be found, he said.

"It just hurts," Piercy said. "It hurts my heart to see how many people have nothing left."

Lasheree Richardson, 35, of Albany, told NBC News that she felt her house shake and heard her windows shatter as the storm passed through.

"I heard my neighbor scream, and it made me rush into the closet," where a neighbor who'd walked a mile and a half found her, she said.

"She was happy I was OK. Once she saw what was around, it was a blessing," Richardson said.

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