Tornadoes: Southern Storm Damage Extensive

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Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms.

Tornado damage at Courtney's RV Park in Tushka, Oklahoma, Friday, April 15, 2011. Photo courtesy AP/Sue Ogrocki

A violent tornado outbreak last week (April 25–28, 2011) affected the southern Midwestern, and eastern United States, leaving catastrophic destruction in its wake. The outbreak produced destructive tornadoes in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, and affected several other areas throughout the Southern and Eastern United States with tornadoes confirmed from Texas to New York. The state of Alabama suffered the worst hit with widespread and destructive tornadoes occurring each day.

As early morning Saturday (April 30), at least 339 people were killed as a result of the outbreak. However, the exact number is unknown as recovery efforts continue, and consequently, various sources differ on the exact count.

Additionally, hundreds of people still remain missing. All except five of the deaths occurred on April 27, although it is unclear whether fatalities from other days are included in the total number of fatalities. Two hundred forty nine deaths in Alabama alone had been confirmed by the state’s Emergency Management Agency by the morning of April 30.

April 27 was the deadliest tornado day in the United States since the 1925 “Tri-State” outbreak, which produced the infamous Tri-State Tornado. Last week’s series of violent storms has been classified by some news outlets as the second-deadliest tornado outbreak in United States history, although the 1936 Tupelo–Gainesville tornado outbreak actually holds that distinction with at least 436 reported deaths. Over 425 tornadoes were reported over four days, including 259 in 16 states on April 27.

Lake Guntersvile State Park in northern Alabama sustained significant damage last week. Every power line in the 6,000-acre park was knocked down and every building in the park has some type of damage, from minor shingle loss to complete destruction. Photo courtesy Montgomery Advertiser

RV parks and campgrounds were among the victims.

Selected media reports follow:

  • The Shadydale Motor Home Park, east of downtown Pell City, Alabama, saw several trees down on houses and mobile homes. Neighbors in the area report one woman who lives in a trailer was taken to the hospital Wednesday morning when a tree fell through her home (WBRC-TV, Birmingham).
  • Severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and straight-line winds moved through the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests, forcing evacuation of recreation areas and campgrounds. The Ozark-St. Francis National Forest temporarily closed a number of recreational areas because of floodwaters or the high probability for flooding (KTHV-TV, Hot Springs, Arkansas).
  • Trees were downed at Big Valley Campground in eastern Tennessee (WBIR-TV, Knoxville).
  • The State of Kentucky experienced its second straight week of torrential rains and at least three state park campgrounds are reported closed due to high water. They include Nolin Lake State Resort Park near Mammoth Cave, Kentucky Dam State Resort Park in Gilbertsville, and Rough River Dam State Resort Park at Falls of Rough.
  • Six state parks in north Alabama are temporarily closed because of storm damage or power outages related to last week’s deadly storms. Buck’s Pocket, Cathedral Caverns, DeSoto, Lake Guntersville, Monte Sano, and Rickwood Caverns state parks are all closed until further notice. The power is out at all of these parks and water is out at most of them (Montgomery Advertiser).
  • In this Wednesday, April 27, 2011 photo, a displaced dog is seen among debris in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Photo courtesy AP/Tuscaloosa News, Dusty Compton

    In the town of Sunnyside, Georgia, Sunnyside RV & Truck Sales lost an estimated $1.5 million in inventory. The lot at Sunnyside RV and Truck Sales was filled with 35-foot 20,000-pound coaches but is now half empty. “It looked like an atomic bomb went off,” said co-owner Jason Miller, 34. “Everything we had is gone. We can’t even find half of it. I don’t know how to brace for this; I don’t know what to do.” He and his partner had been in business for six months and had insurance only on the amount they owed on the vehicles. “It’s something we’ve been working on for six months, 80 hours a week, trying to build up a clientele,” he said. Billy Carter, 46, came to the scene to check on a coach he was selling on consignment at the lot. He had bought the RV when his house burned down a year ago. The coach had jumped another and landed, half crushed, about 50 feet from its original spot. Carter said he had no insurance on the RV. “Maybe it’s a total loss, but as long as my family and nobody got killed, then a camper doesn’t mean anything,” he said (

Note: This is part 1 of a 3-part series on tornadoes

Worth Pondering…
You’re born in this life with nothing, you leave with nothing and all this you’re just borrowing.

—Billy Carter

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