Storm death toll mounts

AP Photo/The Decatur Daily, Gary Cosby Jr
Tamisha Cunningham, who suffered a leg injury when her home was destroyed, looks over the damage while waiting for medical care, near Athens, Ala., Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Homes in the area were completely destroyed following a tornado that cut a path through Lawrence, Morgan and Limestone Counties
Wednesday, April 27, 2011 8:06 AM
Last updated Thursday, April 28, 2011 10:36 AM
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A tornado moves through Tuscaloosa, Ala. Wednesday, April 27, 2011. A wave of severe storms laced with tornadoes strafed the South on Wednesday, killing at least 16 people around the region and splintering buildings across swaths of an Alabama university town.   Associated Press
Associated Press
A tornado moves through Tuscaloosa, Ala. Wednesday, April 27, 2011. A wave of severe storms laced with tornadoes strafed the South on Wednesday, killing at least 16 people around the region and splintering buildings across swaths of an Alabama university town.

10:14 a.m.

PLEASANT GROVE, Ala.  — Dozens of tornadoes spawned by a powerful storm system wiped out neighborhoods across a wide swath of the South, killing at least 201 people in the deadliest outbreak in nearly 40 years, and officials said Thursday they expected the death toll to rise.

Alabama's state emergency management agency said it had confirmed 131 deaths, while there were 32 in Mississippi, 16 in Tennessee, 13 in Georgia, eight in Virginia and one in Kentucky.

The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said it received 137 tornado reports around the regions into Wednesday night.

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9:21 a.m.

RINGGOLD, Ga. - Severe storms turned deadly as they roared across north Georgia, with authorities early Thursday reporting at least 13 people killed in the state and dozens more injured after possible tornadoes and high winds crushed homes and uprooted trees.

At least five tornadoes were reported in Georgia since the storms began Wednesday, according to preliminary reports from the National Weather Service. Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state emergency in a handful of counties, and that list was expected to grow.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The death toll from severe storms that punished five Southern U.S. states has jumped to 178 after Alabama sharply raised its tally of lives lost.

Alabama's state emergency management agency said early today it had confirmed 128 deaths, up from at least 61 earlier.

Mississippi officials reported 32 dead in that state and Tennessee raised its report to six from one.

Another 11 have been killed in Georgia and one in Virginia.

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RINGGOLD, Ga. — Severe storms turned deadly as they moved across north Georgia, with officials today reporting at least 11 people killed statewide and dozens injured as the violent weather ripped through the South, killing more than 80 across the region.

Authorities said two people were killed in Dade County and reported seven others had died in Catoosa County, where rescue crews were trying to free people trapped by wreckage after a suspected tornado touched down and flattened several buildings.

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 ATLANTA  - Severe storms turned deadly as they moved across north Georgia, with officials early Thursday reporting at least 11 people killed statewide and dozens injured as the violent weather ripped through the South, killing more than 80 across the region.

Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency covering Floyd, Dade, Catoosa and Walker counties. His spokesman, Brian Robinson, said that list would likely grow as the wave of storms continued to push across the state early Thursday.

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5:54 a.m. -

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.  - Fierce storms that spawned tornadoes roared across the South, killing at least 85 people as they wiped out homes and businesses, forced a nuclear power plant to use backup generators and even prompted the evacuation of a National Weather Service office.

The death toll was staggering - at least 61 killed in Alabama alone, a number that was likely to increase. The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said it received 137 tornado reports around the region so far, including 66 in Alabama and 38 in Mississippi.

 -- Associated Press

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ATLANTA -- Severe storms turned deadly as they moved across north Georgia, with officials early Thursday reporting at least nine people killed statewide and dozens injured as the violent weather ripped up trees and collapsed buildings.

Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency covering Floyd, Dade, Catoosa and Walker counties. His spokesman, Brian Robinson, said that list would likely grow as the wave of storms continued to push across the state early Thursday.

"Right now, we're seeing fatalities, injuries and serious property damage in northwest Georgia," Deal said in a statement. "We encourage Georgians to take every precaution tonight, and we will keep those who have suffered greatly in our thoughts and prayers."

Authorities said two people were killed in Dade County and reported seven others had died in Catoosa County, where rescue crews were trying to free people trapped by wreckage after a suspected tornado touched down and flattened several buildings.

"We've got 10 to 12 commercial buildings that have collapsed in the city of Ringgold," said Crystal Paulk-Buchanan, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. "There is a search and rescue team that has responded. They've brought a heavy rescue vehicle to assist with the rescuing."

Authorities in Catoosa County said early Thursday they were still searching for survivors.

About 30 people from Catoosa County were taken to area hospitals, and 150 people were staying at Lakeview Fort-Oglethorpe High School.

Authorities said a Ringgold motel was also damaged, prompting about 125 people to be evacuated. There were also reports of significant damage to a high school and a middle school in the Ringgold area, and Catoosa County schools were closed for the rest of the week.

Catoosa County Coroner Vanita Hullander said late Wednesday she could only confirm one death but said the destruction in Ringgold was extensive.

"A lot of the town is destroyed and so is a large part of the county," Hullander said.

Neighboring Whitfield County sent emergency responders and police to Catoosa County on the Tennessee state line.

"I understand it's just total devastation," said Claude Craig, emergency management director for Whitfield County. "We've got everything we can throw at them in Catoosa."

G. Larry Black, a Ringgold city councilman, said a 150-year-old oak tree had smashed into his neighbor's house but no one was hurt.

Paulk-Buchanan said at least 25 injuries were reported in Dade County and four hurt in Floyd County. In Walker County, up to 25 people were taken to the hospital after the storms rolled through, and five of them remained hospitalized Wednesday night, she said.

In Dade County, there were two deaths and dozens of injuries reported in the Trenton area, according to Coroner Johnny Ray Gray. No other details were immediately available.

Gray said the south end of Trenton suffered heavy damage, including an apartment complex in the town about 125 miles northwest of Atlanta.

Multiple counties reported damage from possible tornadoes -- and thousands of homes and businesses were without power.

Georgia power reported 38,000 customers without power statewide late Wednesday. That total included about 16,000 customers in Rome; 8,400 in Trenton; and 5,600 in Cartersville.

Kent McMullen, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, said tornadoes had been reported in several areas of north Georgia but none could be confirmed immediately.

"We have gotten reports of tornadoes," McMullen said. "I know we've had damaging winds, trees down and large hail reported. The emergency managers are all out there trying to get things under control, so we've had very little information trickle in."

More than 150 homes were damaged by storms and 32 roads were closed Wednesday in Floyd County, county emergency management officials said.

"The wind was blowing so hard it felt like my truck was going to blow over," motorist Dan Montgomery told the Rome News-Tribune. "People were panicking and turning and trying to get out of the way."

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency said five nursing home patients in Dade County were moved to Chattanooga, Tenn., because of power outages. At least two school districts, Floyd and Dade counties, closed early for the day and students from a Dade County elementary and middle school damaged by the storms were sent home.

Superintendent Patty Priest said awnings were blown off at both schools, a greenhouse was damaged and cars were hit with debris from a nearby business. She said power is out at the county's three schools and students were being sent home.

"We're all safe," she said.

At Redmond Regional Medical Center in Rome, the storm knocked out the power, smashed a window and damaged the roof, said spokeswoman Lisa Brown. She said the hospital was running on generators but had not needed to reroute patients to other hospitals.

"We did get hit with some pretty strong winds," she said.

At Hartsfield-Jackson International airport -- the world's busiest -- flights scheduled to arrive in Atlanta on Wednesday night were being held before they departed other cities due to high winds in the Atlanta area, federal aviation officials said.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Fierce storms obliterated large swaths of land from Mississippi to Georgia, wiping out homes and businesses, causing a nuclear power plant to use backup generators and even forcing the evacuation of a National Weather Service office.

The death toll was staggering -- 83 people killed in five states, including 61 in Alabama alone, a number that was likely to increase.

One of the hardest-hit areas was Tuscaloosa, a city of more than 83,000 and home to the University of Alabama. The city's police and other emergency services were devastated, the mayor said, and at least 15 people were killed and about 100 were in a single hospital.

A massive tornado, caught on video by a news camera on a tower, barreled through the city late Wednesday afternoon, leveling it.

By nightfall, the city was dark. Roads were impassable. Signs were blown down in front of restaurants, businesses were unrecognizable and sirens wailed off and on. Debris littered the streets and sidewalks.

College students in a commercial district near campus used flashlights to check out the damage.

At Stephanie's Flowers, owner Bronson Englebert used the headlights from two delivery vans to see what valuables he could remove. He had closed early, which was a good thing. The storm blew out the front of his store, pulled down the ceiling and shattered the windows, leaving only the curtains flapping in the breeze.

"It even blew out the back wall, and I've got bricks on top of two delivery vans now," Englebert said.

A group of students stopped to help Englebert, carrying out items like computers and printers and putting them in his van.

"They've been awfully good to me so far," Englebert said.

Elsewhere, 11 people were killed in Mississippi, nine people were reported dead in Georgia and one person died each in Tennessee and Virginia.

The storm system spread destruction from Texas to New York, where dozens of roads were flooded or washed out.

President Barack Obama said he had spoken with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and approved his request for emergency federal assistance, including search and rescue assets. About 1,400 National Guard soldiers were being deployed around the state.

"Our hearts go out to all those who have been affected by this devastation, and we commend the heroic efforts of those who have been working tirelessly to respond to this disaster," Obama said in a statement.

Around Tuscaloosa, traffic was snarled by downed trees and power lines, and some drivers abandoned their cars in medians.

"What we faced today was massive damage on a scale we have not seen in Tuscaloosa in quite some time," Mayor Walter Maddox said.

University officials said there didn't appear to be significant damage on campus, and dozens of students and locals were staying at a 125-bed shelter in the campus recreation center.

Volunteers and staff were providing food and water to people like 29-year-old civil engineering graduate student Kenyona Pierce.

"I really don't know if I have a home to go to," she said.

Storms also struck Birmingham, felling numerous trees that impeded emergency responders and those trying to leave hard-hit areas. Surrounding Jefferson County reported 11 deaths; another hard-hit area was Walker County in the far northwest part of the state with at least eight deaths. The rest of the deaths were scattered around northern Alabama.

The Browns Ferry nuclear power plant about 30 miles west of Huntsville lost offsite power. The Tennessee Valley Authority-owned plant had to use seven diesel generators to power the plant's three units. The safety systems operated as needed and the emergency event was classified as the lowest of four levels, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

In Huntsville, meteorologists found themselves in the path of severe storms and had to take shelter in a reinforced steel room, turning over monitoring duties to a sister office in Jackson, Miss. Meteorologists saw multiple wall clouds, which sometimes spawn tornadoes, and decided to take cover, but the building wasn't damaged.

"We have to take shelter just like the rest of the people," said meteorologist Chelly Amin, who wasn't at the office at the time but spoke with colleagues about the situation.

She said the extent of the damage statewide is still unknown.

"I really think with the rising of the sun, we'll see the full extent of this," she said.

In Kemper County, Miss., in the east-central part of the state, sisters Florrie Green and Maxine McDonald, and their sister-in-law Johnnie Green, all died in a mobile home that was destroyed by a storm.

Johnnie Green's daughter-in-law said Florrie Green and McDonald owned mobile homes side-by-side, and Johnnie Green lived nearby. Johnnie Green was at one of the woman's homes at the time the storm hit.

"It's hard. It's been very difficult," Mary Green said. "They were thrown into those pines over there," she said, pointing to a wooded area. "They had to go look for their bodies."

In Choctaw County, Miss., a Louisiana police officer was killed Wednesday morning when a towering sweetgum tree fell onto his tent as he shielded his young daughter with his body, said Kim Korthuis, a supervisory ranger with the National Park Service. The girl wasn't hurt.

The 9-year-old girl was brought to a motorhome about 100 feet away where campsite volunteer Greg Maier was staying with his wife, Maier said. He went back to check on the father and found him dead.

"She wasn't hurt, just scared and soaking wet," Maier said.

Her father, Lt. Wade Sharp, had been with the Covington Police Department for 19 years.

"He was a hell of an investigator," said Capt. Jack West, his colleague in Louisiana.

In a neighborhood south of Birmingham, Austin Ransdell and a friend had to hike out after the house where he was living was crushed by four trees. No one was hurt.

As he walked away from the wreckage, trees and power lines crisscrossed residential streets, and police cars and utility trucks blocked a main highway.

"The house was destroyed. We couldn't stay in it. Water pipes broke; it was flooding the basement," he said. "We had people coming in telling us another storm was coming in about four or five hours, so we just packed up."

Not far away, Craig Branch was stunned by the damage.

"Every street to get into our general subdivision was blocked off. Power lines are down; trees are all over the road. I've never seen anything like that before," he said.

In eastern Tennessee, a woman was killed by falling trees in her trailer in Chattanooga. Just outside the city in Tiftonia, what appeared to be a tornado also struck at the base of the tourist peak Lookout Mountain.

Tops were snapped off trees and insulation and metal roof panels littered the ground. Police officers walked down the street, spray-painting symbols on houses they had checked for people who might be inside.

Mary Ann Bowman, 42, stood watching from her driveway as huge tractors moved downed trees in the street. She had rushed home from work to find windows shattered at her house, and her grandmother's house next door shredded. The 91-year-old woman wasn't home at the time.

"When I pulled up I just started crying," Bowman said.

Tornado threat tonight

ATLANTA  — The National Weather Service is warning of another round of thunderstorms headed for north and central Georgia, and it says tornadoes are possible.

The weather service says there's a chance of thunderstorms Wednesday afternoon across the state. Some of the storms could be severe and winds of up to 25 mph are forecast.

The weather service says occasional showers and thunderstorms are possible Wednesday evening and are likely early Thursday, and some of those storms may be severe.

Weather service forecasters say the storms may produce tornadoes in northwest

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bclicious
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bclicious 04/28/11 - 06:48 am
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Unlike the Tsunami in Japan

Unlike the Tsunami in Japan and the Earthquake in Haiti, something tells me that no one is going to raise money or make a fuss for the victims of this tragedy. Just goes to show that we can take care of people in other countries, but not in our own.

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