Tornadoes and violent storms ripped through seven southern US states, killing at least 259 people in the country’s deadliest series of twisters in nearly four decades.
The clusters of powerful tornadoes – more than 160 in total – combined with storms to cut a swath of destruction heading from west to east over several days. In some areas, whole neighborhoods were flattened, cars flipped over and trees and power lines felled, leaving mounds of tangled wreckage.
At least 162 people died in Alabama, the worst-hit state which suffered “massive destruction of property,” Governor Robert Bentley said on Thursday.
The mile-wide monster twister that on Wednesday tore through the town of Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama, may have been the biggest ever to hit the state, meteorologist Josh Nagelberg said on the AccuWeather.com website.
Many people told tales of narrow misses. “I made it. I got in a closet, put a pillow over my face and held on for dear life because it started sucking me up,” said Angela Smith of Tuscaloosa, whose neighbor was killed.
President Barack Obama will visit Alabama on Friday to view damage and meet the governor, the White House said.
In preliminary estimates, other state officials reported 32 killed in Mississippi, 30 in Tennessee, 11 in Arkansas, 14 in Georgia, eight in Virginia and two in Louisiana.
The Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in Alabama was expected to be shut for days, possibly weeks, as workers repaired damaged transmission lines.
But the backup systems worked as intended to prevent a partial meltdown like the nuclear disaster in Japan.
“The reactors will remain shut until we have restored the reliability of the transmission system,” said Ray Golden, spokesman for the Tennessee Valley Authority, which owns the 3,274-megawatt plant. Up to one million people in Alabama were left without power.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2011.