Damage from an EF5 tornado that struck Smithville, Miss., on April 27, 2011. Click the image for a slideshow of the devastation. (NWS)
With entire towns reduced to rubble and damage spread across seven states, people in the southeastern United States began the long task of recovery. The tornadoes that struck this past week claimed 341 lives and achieved the unwanted status as the 2nd deadliest single-day tornado outbreak in U.S. history.
President Barack Obama toured the devastated city of Tuscaloosa in Alabama yesterday saying, “I have never seen devastation like this. It is heartbreaking.”
The National Weather Service received 211 tornado reports during the outbreak, a number that will be reduced once duplicates are removed. No matter the number of twisters, the results were nothing short of devastating.
One tornado that struck near Smithville, Mississippi has received an EF-5 rating – the highest possible. Meteorologists estimate that twister packed winds of 205mph. A tornado in Georgia was rated an EF-4 and at least five EF-3 tornadoes struck Alabama. Weather service officials say they expect more twisters could receive the highest rating as they continue their investigation.
With 341 lives confirmed lost and the number expected to continue to grow, the outbreak ranks as the 2nd deadliest single-day outbreak on record. It surpassed the “Super Outbreak” of 1974 and a 1932 outbreak in the Deep South.
Some are speculating the toll will grow enough for the event to become the worst in history, a truly nightmare scenario. The Tri-State tornado on March 18, 1925 claimed the lives of 747 people. One tornado alone in that outbreak tracked 234 miles across Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
Slideshow: DigitalGlobe, NASA and Geoeye satellites provide view of tornado devastation
Obama has promised to speed federal aid to the region as governor’s in the hardest hit states declared states of emergency. “We can’t bring those who’ve been lost back. They’re alongside God at this point … but the property damage, which is obviously extensive, that’s something we can do something about,” the president said.
Damage estimates continue but an untold number of homes have been destroyed, certainly a number in the thousands. Insured losses could reach between $2 billion and $5 billion which would push the disaster into the top 10 list of most expensive natural disasters in US history.
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