VIDEO: Severe weather kills more than 20 in U.S.

At least 36 tornados have touched down in the Southeast U.S.

Funerals and memorial services are beginning for the nearly two dozen people who died when a tornado slammed into an eastern Alabama community.

A service is planned for Thursday afternoon for 22-year-old Ryan Pence, who was killed with girlfriend Felicia Woodall in the Beauregard community. The two were engaged to be married.

A relative of Woodall posted on Facebook that family members walked through the woods looking for the couple after the tornado struck.

An announcement by Chapman Funeral Home says Pence’s service will be held in the city of Eufaula, located about 50 miles (80 kilometres) east of the worst damage from Sunday’s twister.

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The Rev. Billy McClendon, who will officiate at Pence’s memorial service, says he worked with Pence at the Eufaula Parks and Recreation Department.

The number of tornadoes confirmed to have touched down in a deadly weekend outbreak across the Southeast has risen to at least 36.

Survey teams for the National Weather Service found evidence of the twisters in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

The most powerful was an E4 tornado blamed for killing 23 people Sunday in rural Lee County, Alabama. Its destructive winds reached 170 mph (274 kph) as it carved a path of destruction nearly a mile wide. The tornado trekked nearly 70 miles (113 kilometres) from western Alabama into Georgia after crossing the Chattahoochee River at the state line.

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All of the tornado deaths were in Alabama, though several people in Georgia were injured.

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