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Disaster strikes: Worst tornado outbreak in more than 30 years hits the South

Thursday, April 28th, 2011 6:14pm MDT
A tornado is seen ripping through Tuscaloosa, Alabama. View more images in the slideshow below.

A tornado is seen ripping through Tuscaloosa, Alabama. View more images in the slideshow below. (Credit: yfrog / bamawx)

A virtually unrivaled severe weather outbreak hit the southern United States yesterday bringing death and destruction.  The death toll from the event continues to climb and now ranks as the second worst since 1950.

The evaluation on the number of tornadoes and their power has begun by the National Weather Service.  The Storm Prediction Center recorded 164 reports but a number of those will be eliminated as duplicates of the same twisters.

Harold Brooks, a meteorologist with the SPC, told the Associated Press that he believed as many as 60 reports may be attributed to a single long-track tornado.  He further said that some may have achieved the EF-5 rating, the highest possible that generates winds in excess of 200mph.

Recovery efforts across the nation’s South continue as resources continue to arrive.  The Red Cross and other relief agencies were sending personnel from across the nation to help with search and rescue and to help with the distribution of water, food and other necessities.

  • Check out images and video of the tornadoes below

More than 1 million people were still without power this evening in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.  The Browns Ferry nuclear power plant west of Huntsville lost power from the storms but was able to safely shut down.

Alabama announced 11 more fatalities bringing the state’s losses to at least 195.  Overall at least 284 people across six states were killed making the disaster one of the worst tornado outbreaks in U.S. history.  Only the “Super Outbreak” of 1974 caused more deaths.

Photo slideshow - Death and destruction in Alabama in the wake of tornado outbreak.

Photo slideshow - Death and destruction in Alabama in the wake of tornado outbreak.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox said, “I don’t know how anyone survived.”  The mayor toured his city by helicopter and was stunned by the devastation. “We have neighborhoods that have been basically removed from the map,”Maddox said.

States of emergency were declared in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia.  President Barack Obama announced that he would speed federal aid to the disaster stricken region and would visit Alabama personally on Friday.

For complete coverage of the tornado outbreak, please visit the Natural Disasters Examiner.

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