Deadly tornadoes rip through southern US, killing over 300

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Friday, April 29, 2011

NOAA tornado probability map for April 27, 2011

A huge thunderstorm system spawning massive tornadoes ripped through the south-eastern US Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning, killing at least 306 people in six states and causing wide spread property damage. Some 173 tornadoes have been reported from New York to Texas. In the worst hit state of Alabama, at least 210 are confirmed dead, including 36 in Tuscaloosa alone.

Cquote1.svg In terms of the ground-up damage and quite possibly the insured damage, this event will be of historic proportions. Cquote2.svg

—Jose Miranda, EQECAT

Deaths also were reported in Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and Kentucky.

Up to one million people in Alabama were without power. A nuclear power plant was shut down in Alabama after it lost power to its three units, an operation of the plant's safety systems.

Seven states have declared a state of emergency, and federal aid is being sent to Alabama. Governor Robert J. Bentley said he was activating 2,000 Alabama National Guard personell to aid in search and rescue. President Barack Obama, who plans to visit Alabama on Friday to view the destruction, sent a message of condolence to the governor:

"Michelle and I extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives because of the tornadoes that have swept through Alabama and the southeastern United States. Our hearts go out to all those who have been affected by this devastation, and we commend the heroic efforts of those who have been working tirelessly to respond to this disaster. I just spoke to Governor Bentley and told him that I have ordered the Federal Government to move quickly in our response and informed him that I approved his request for emergency Federal assistance, including search and rescue assets. While we may not know the extent of the damage for days, we will continue to monitor these severe storms across the country and stand ready to continue to help the people of Alabama and all citizens affected by these storms."

Preliminary estimates of the tornado hitting Tuscaloosa suggest it tore along the ground for 176 miles and contained winds up to 200 miles per hour. The devastation included residential and commercial areas, as well as the city's infrastructure and civic buildings.

Cquote1.svg I don't know how anyone survived. ... But when you look at the path of destruction that's likely 5 to 7 miles long in an area half a mile to a mile wide ... it's an amazing scene. There's parts of the city I don't recognize, and that's someone that's lived here his entire life. Cquote2.svg

—Walter Maddox, Mayor of Tuscaloosa

"I don't know how anyone survived," said Mayor Walter Maddox of Tuscaloosa. "We're used to tornadoes here in Tuscaloosa. It's part of growing up. But when you look at the path of destruction that's likely 5 to 7 miles long in an area half a mile to a mile wide ... it's an amazing scene. There's parts of the city I don't recognize, and that's someone that's lived here his entire life."

Officials did not want to give specific numbers for death toll and destruction in specific states, as the extent of the damage and human injury and death is not completely known. According the the Los Angeles Times, "Mississippi officials reported 32 dead, Tennessee raised its report to 29, Georgia reported 13, Virginia said it had eight deaths and Kentucky reported at least one death. The number of injured was in the hundreds, with that number also expected to rise."

"In terms of the ground-up damage and quite possibly the insured damage, this event will be of historic proportions," Jose Miranda, from EQECAT, a catastrophe risk modeling firm,

The severe weather warning has been continued through Thursday, and includes parts of New York, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

This outbreak of tornadoes is considered the deadliness since 1974 when more than 300 were killed in a tornado outbreak. On March 18, 1925, 695 people died in a storm.

Greg Carbin, meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said, "May is usually the most active tornado month. Will it maintain the activity of April, we just cannot say."



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