Tornadoes take staggering toll in Alabama and Deep South (video)
A massive thunderstorm front spawned 137 tornadoes, killed at least 180 people, and mangled sections of Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Huntsville, Ala., on Wednesday. April is now one of the most violent weather months in the region in decades.
A line of violent thunderstorms – the latest in a deadly series – rolled across the Deep South Wednesday, spawning dozens of tornadoes, razing churches and fire stations, trapping people amid debris, and finally leaving at least 180 people dead, mostly from heavily populated parts of Alabama.Skip to next paragraph
A storm that also took lives in Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Virginia, and Arkansas continued to slide eastward Thursday toward North Carolina. The system became the latest in a series of unusually powerful storm systems that has marched across the US in the past month, leaving April 2011 as one of the most violent weather months in decades.
This particular tornado system is likely to be the deadliest in the US since the April 3-4, 1974, tornado outbreak that killed 318 people from Alabama to Canada. Alabama took the heaviest losses in that event as well, with 77 casualties.
"We had a major catastrophic event here in Alabama with the outbreak of numerous long-track tornadoes," Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said Thursday morning in a phone briefing with reporters.
Thanks to a lingering La Niña system in the Pacific that has shifted the pattern of wind flows across the US, Tornado Alley – the tornado-manufacturing stretch of the Western plains – has remained relatively quiet while parts of the Midwest, the mid-South, and the Deep South have taken the brunt of atmospheric turmoil.
On Saturday, a conglomeration, or family, of tornadoes lit up North Carolina after spawning twisters in at least a dozen other states. More storm systems have moved through this week, leading to tornadoes mixing with wildfires in west Texas, twisters taking aim at Alabama's most populous cities, and storms taking out, in places, the ability of emergency officials to respond to the havoc.