Twister toll at 337. 2nd-deadliest outbreak in US
TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Southerners found their emergency safety net shredded Friday as they tried to emerge from the second-deadliest day for a twister outbreak in U.S. history.
Emergency buildings are wiped out. Bodies are stored in refrigerated trucks. Authorities are begging for such basics as flashlights. In one neighborhood, the storms even left firefighters working without a truck.
The death toll from Wednesday’s storms reached 337 across seven states, including at least 246 in Alabama.
The largest death toll ever was on March 18, 1925, when 747 people were killed in storms that raged through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. The second deadliest day had been in March 1932, when 332 people died, all in Alabama.
The 1925 outbreak was long before the days when Doppler radar could warn communities of severe weather. Forecasters have said residents were told the latest tornadoes were coming. But they were just too wide and powerful and in populated areas to avoid a horrifying body count.
Hundreds if not thousands of people were injured Wednesday — 990 in Tuscaloosa alone — and as many as 1 million Alabama homes and businesses remained without power.
The scale of the disaster astonished President Barack Obama when he arrived in the state Friday.
“I’ve never seen devastation like this,” he said, standing in bright sunshine amid the wreckage in Tuscaloosa, where at least 45 people were killed and entire neighborhoods were flattened. Hours later, Obama signed disaster declarations for Mississippi and Georgia, in addition to one he had authorized for Alabama.
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