Thursday, April 28, 2011

Violent Tornadoes Devastate the South At Least 248 Dead

Large, powerful and long-tracking tornadoes ravaged the South on Wednesday, leaving many communities devastated and many lives lost.
At least 248 people are dead after Wednesday's massive tornado outbreak, according to the Associated Press. That number will likely continue to rise as crews comb through the wreckage.
Wednesday is the deadliest tornado day in the United States since 310 people lost their lives on April 3, 1974. April 27, 2011 ranks third in the nation's deadliest tornado days (since 1950). The second deadliest was April 11, 1965 with 260 lives lost.

Out of the deaths on Wednesday, at least 162 occurred in Alabama. Mississippi officials report at least 32 people are dead, while 32 lives were lost in Tennessee and 13 in Georgia. Reports say at least one person was killed in Arkansas.
The Associated Press reported that eight people were also killed when tornadoes and severe thunderstorms swept through Virginia early Thursday morning.
Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and southern Tennessee suffered the worst of the tornado outbreak.
Most of the 164 tornado sightings reported to the Storm Prediction Center, as of 9 a.m. EDT, came from these states. The actual number of tornadoes that touched down will be lower since numerous twisters remained on the ground for lengthy stretches of time, leading to multiple sightings.
National Weather Service storm survey crews must investigate the destruction before the tally of tornadoes from Wednesday is finalized. These crews will also officially rank each tornado, using the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
One of Wednesday's extremely large tornadoes devastated Tuscaloosa, Ala., home of the University of Alabama, shortly after 6 p.m. EDT with "complete devastation" reported by Tuscaloosa News along 15th Street heading to McFarland.
The city's Mayor Walt Maddox confirmed the deaths of at least 36 people with more than 100 others sustaining injuries. reported that "this is at least the second tornado in 12 days to touch down in Tuscaloosa." The last time was during the April 15, 2011, outbreak that devastated Mississippi and central and southern parts of Alabama.
Tornadoes also touched down around Birmingham, Ala., with 11 deaths in the city's home county of Jefferson.
A tornado leaves a path of devastation after as it hits Pratt City just north of downtown Birmingham on Wednesday, April 27, 2011, in Birmingham, Ala. The widespread destruction caused Gov. Robert Bentley to declare a state of emergency by midday, saying tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, hail and straight-line winds caused damage to "numerous homes and businesses" in Alabama. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Another large twister tore through far northwestern Georgia, just south of Chattanooga, Tenn., damaging cars and tossing tractor trailers near the Ringgold exit off I-75 in Catoosa County.
A nearby three-story Super 8 Motel collapsed, killing at least seven people. WXIA-TV reports that Ringgold Police requested a "mass casualty morgue" to be set up at the destruction site.
An unconfirmed tornado is reportedly to blame for at least five deaths, numerous injuries and structural damage near Camp Creek, Tenn.
Three fatalities have been reported with a tornado that tore through Kemper County, Miss., earlier Wednesday. Mobile homes were damaged and destroyed with a large number of trees down, preventing emergency workers from reaching the area.
Deadly tornadoes on Wednesday were not confined to the south. At least one person was reportedly killed near Nathalie, Va., after an apparent tornado.
This is why mobile homes are not safe in the event of a tornado and why people who live in mobile homes need to have an action plan for getting to a safe shelter before a tornado hits. Concrete steps lead to remains of a tornado-demolished mobile home in Preston, Miss., Wednesday, April 27, 2011. The home and one next to it were blown about 100 feet away into a cow pasture. Three related women died at the site. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Tornadoes even occurred as far north as upstate New York on Wednesday night. One such tornado struck Swartwood, N.Y., damaging six homes to the point they are now deemed inhabitable.
Wednesday's massive tornado outbreak got under way when a tornado was spotted in Esperanza, Miss., just after 9 a.m. CDT. A twister was sighted later on near Lawrenceburg, Tenn., around 10:40 a.m. CDT.
Another possible tornado touched down one mile north of Decatur, Ala., around 11:30 a.m. CDT, while debris was reported with a tornado near Athens High School in Athens, Ala., around the same time.
Many of the same areas slammed by Wednesday's vicious tornado outbreak were just hit bydamaging thunderstorms and tornadoes Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.
Ingredients Behind Wednesday's Massive Outbreak
The culprit behind Wednesday's massive tornado outbreak was an unusually potent storm system that emerged from the Arklatex.
Warm, humid air funneling northward ahead of this system clashed with invading cooler air to ignite the violent thunderstorms.
Winds from the south to southeast at the surface combined with southwesterly winds overhead to create significant twisting motion in the atmosphere, allowing the strongest thunderstorms to spawn tornadoes.
All of these ingredients will not be in place across the East Coast, where severe weather will continue to rumble today.
That will prevent a repeat of Wednesday's devastating tornado outbreak. Though, a few tornadoes can still touch down and cause destruction.
By Kristina Pydynowski, Senior Meteorologist
Apr 28, 2011; 12:37 PM ET

Content contributed by meteorologist Heather Buchman

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