Lawrenceburg Now

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Death Toll Rises In Wake Of Killer Storms

   A fierce storm system that spawned more than 100 reported tornadoes Wednesday is said to be the deadliest outbreak in forty years.

   Officials with The Weather Channel report that the deadliest recorded outbreak occurred in 1925 when 747 persons were killed.

The second deadliest, they report, occurred in 1974 when 307 people perished. The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, reported it received 137 tornado reports around the region, including 66 in Alabama and 38 in Mississippi.

   Wednesday’s storms pelted a large portion of the United States, stretching from Texas to New York. The merciless barrage obliterated homes, businesses, and in some instances entire communities.

   Officials in the hardest hit states were working Thursday to identify the dead and locate individuals reported missing. Thursday morning, they reported the death toll had risen to 213. That number was expected to rise, as search and rescue operations were still on-going.

   Thursday, officials reported thirty-two dead in Mississippi, thirty in Tennessee, twelve in Georgia, and eight in Virginia. The hardest hit, Alabama, reported a death toll Thursday morning of 131; a number that was continuing to climb.

   President Barrack Obama was quick to approve a request for emergency federal assistance for the State of Alabama. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley reported “massive” destruction throughout his stated, with more than one million residents left without power.

   Some 2,000 Alabama National Guard troops quickly answered the call for assistance, helping to clear debris and conducting search operations for those still missing.

   The storms prompted the evacuation of offices of the Huntsville National Weather Service and forced officials with Brown’s Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens to revert to backup power.

Classified as a level four emergency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials said the plant lost offsite power for a time, requiring the use of seven diesel generators to power the plant’s three units.

   Residents turned to television, radio and internet media to stay apprised of possible danger. There, they heard many heart-wrenching stories. One such story circulating involved the death of Mississippi police officer Wade Sharp.

Reports indicated that Sharp died when a tree fell on his tent, where he was shielding his nine-year-old daughter from harm. The girl was uninjured.

   Once the system had cleared the area, residents were faced with further concern. The storms dumped many inches of rain throughout their trek.

Several died after becoming trapped due to flash floods. Thursday, precautions were still being taken as officials waited for streams and rivers to crest.

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