This tornado outbreak? It's possibly the deadliest in almost four decades. CNN is reporting at least 272 fatalities spread out from Mississippi to Virginia. (The Super Outbreak of April 1974 killed about 330.) There could have been as many as 100 tornadoes involved. Here are media reports from some of the worst-hit areas yesterday:
Birmingham, Ala: At least 26 fatalities. A tremendous tornado gutted a vast tract of the city, raking neighborhoods still recovering from a twister on April 15. Skip to minute 5 in the above video to see it at its fiercest. The National Weather Service has a map of storm-damage reports. This aerial video shows nothing left standing in parts of central Alabama and has newscasters comparing the scene to post-tsunami Japan. Here's another awful news account of ripped-up Alabama.
Pratt City, Ala.: Six tornadoes last night caused a ghastly, Where’s Waldo-like mess of people and debris. These pictures are just unbelievable.
Tuscaloosa, Ala: Fifteen deaths, about 100 injured. Emergency officials are guessing that the death toll will rise as crews comb the city, looking for survivors buried under junk. The air stinks of natural gas leaking out of broken pipes and fountains of water spurt from the crushed remains of homes. Said local Pearline Hinton: “"I had been watching the news and I seen it coming, and I told my son to, 'Come on, let's get in the bathroom.' We got in there and everything just started crashing and breaking, chairs and everything were flying. I mean TV's and cars and everything."
Here's what the twister in Tuscaloosa looked like:
Smithville, Miss.: Thirteen fatalities reported. A tornado with power way disproportionate to Smithville’s population of 857 rearranged the town into a rubble-strewn moonscape. Witnesses said the twister could have been a mile wide.
Chickasaw County, Miss.: Four deaths and seven injuries. A mattress landed in the street miles away from the house it belonged in. Residents who fled can’t get to their houses because of the amount of debris in the roads. Mary Ruth Ellis told her local TV station: "I was in Okolona when this happened. When I came back home, everything was gone. My freezer is laying out in the yard, and the house, where it was is just like this concrete [wiped] clean."
Catoosa and Dade counties, Ga.: Eleven deaths reported. Homes and business and bones were broken as 11 suspected tornadoes crossed through Georgia. A state of emergency stands in many state counties. Leroy Wilson, a first responder in Fort Oglethorpe, told his local paper that he heard “somebody very frantic was on the radio screaming for help and said it had just happened. He said their car was overturned and people were bleeding.”
Collins, Miss.: This happened: