Friday, April 29th, this week’s death toll from storms totaled 341, across seven states. In Alabama, 249 deaths were included in that total, which makes it the deadliest U.S. tornado outbreak since March of 1932. In Tuscaloosa, hundreds of persons remain missing. Watching news coverage of the devastation gives us a glimpse of what citizens there are facing. We can only imagine the heartbreak of losing family members who were with them only a few minutes prior to the storms. Personal belongings have been found hundreds of miles from their homes, in other states. One of Wednesday’s tornadoes was a 205 mph monster that took the lives of 13 people. This tornado was categorized as an EF-5, the most violent. The most recent figures from the Associated Press report death tolls by states, as: Alabama -249; Mississippi – 35; Tennessee – 34; Georgia -15; Virginia – 5; Louisiana -2; and Kentucky – 1, as of Sunday, May 1st.
Now, weather scientists are putting on their “detective hats” to retrace the paths of the monstrous tornadoes and try to prepare a meteorological autopsy report, determining how many twisters developed and the power they contained. Researchers from the National Weather Service and the national Storm Prediction Center are concerned with the types of structures that were destroyed, what type of foundations they were built upon, and the kinds of roofs they had. Then they will combine this data with atmospheric conditions and see how the storms were affected by factors such as moisture levels. According to an Associated Press report, this information will help forecasters better understand how killer systems develop. The final details on the disaster will be part of the National Climate Database. Russell Schneider, director of the SPC in Norman, Oklahoma, said “to have an event of this magnitude with a modern integrated observing system like we have now is unique in the history of meteorology for a tornado forecaster.”
We know that by paying attention to warnings from forecasters, many lives are saved. We also know that we should be prepared in several ways. These folks had some warning, but when it comes to the killers they were facing, they only had a short time to decide what they were going to do, or where they were going for protection. As we can see by the pictures, these tornadoes had very little mercy on so many people, and everything that meant the world to them. Municipal buildings used for helping citizens are gone. It was reported that the Emergency Medical Services personnel have been going strong since it happened, with little rest so far. Recovery workers were on the scene quickly to look for survivors. One major item that authorities have asked for is flashlights, so persons won’t use candles that could ignite what is left of their homes.
Keep these folks in your thoughts and prayers, as they struggle to bury loved ones and carry on – thanks to their determination and the help they are receiving from volunteers, organizations and the government. As one citizen who had lost her home stated: “If you don’t have any bad times, how are you going to appreciate the good times?” If there is anything we can do to help out, let’s do it. Please stay safe through the stormy season.