As you might have heard, deadly tornadoes ripped through the South earlier this week, notably Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, and worst hit of all, Alabama.
I’ve lived in in this beautiful state my whole life. I’ve seen incredible thunderstorms and surprising snow and unbearable heat. And in 2000, a tornado blew through my hometown of Coates Bend, taking with it a massive amount of homes, hundred-year-old trees and even a huge chunk of our church. And while it damaged our town and hearts, it didn’t break our spirit. We rebuilt. We got by. And slowly, we healed.
But now a new hell has been unleashed in the South. Something I never thought I would have to encounter. On Wednesday, April 27, in the early hours of the morning, severe weather struck all over the state. We knew the worst of it wasn’t over, but we had no idea what was coming. By the end of the day, thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed (the number is constantly changing). Here are some hard numbers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
- There were 288 tornadoes during the entire outbreak from 8:00 a.m. EDT April 26 to 8:00 a.m. April 28, 2011.
- During the 24-hour period from 8:00 a.m. EDT April 27 to 8:00 a.m. EDT April 28, The National Weather Service (NWS) estimates there were a total of 211 tornadoes.
- The largest previous number of tornadoes on record in one event occurred from April 3-4, 1974, with 148 tornadoes.
Expert NOAA analysis of the fatality information indicates that at least 344 people were killed during the entire outbreak from 8:00 a.m. EDT April 26 to 8:00 a.m. April 28. There were 334 fatalities during the 24-hour-period from 8:00 a.m. April 27 to 8:00 a.m. April 28.
- This is the most people killed by tornadoes in a two-day period since April 5-6, 1936, when 454 people were killed, mostly in Tupelo, Mississippi and Gainesville, Georgia.
- This is the deadliest single day for tornadoes since the March 18, 1925, tornado outbreak that had 747 fatalities across 7 states (including the Tri-State Tornado).
The Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado during the April 2011 event caused at least 65 fatalities.
- These are the most fatalities from a single tornado in the United States since May 25, 1955, when 80 people were killed in a tornado in southern Kansas with 75 of those deaths in Udall, Kansas.
- The deadliest single tornado on record was the Tri-State tornado (MO, IL, IN) on March 18, 1925, when 695 died.
- (Note: All numbers are based on combined NOAA and historical research records and current fatality estimates. The historical research records extend back to 1680.)
In April 2011, there were 600 tornadoes. The previous record for April is 267, set in 1974, while the record for any month was set in May 2003 with 542.
The scary truth? May is typically the most active month for tornadoes.
There are ways we can help. If you live in the state of Alabama, collection sites are cropping up all over. If you don’t live Alabama, consider giving blood or just donating to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army. You can do that via phone/text:
- Text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross
- Text “GIVE” to 80888 to give $10 to the Salvation Army
- Text “TORNADO” to 50555 to make a $10 gift to United Way
Help Ree Drummond (aka, the Pioneer Woman) donate to the cause this week by leaving her a comment on this entry. She’ll be giving .25 for every comment left, and she’s also giving away four $500 donations to the charity of choice for four lucky commenters. At last time I check, there were over 8,000 comments. That’s a lot of quarters!
Live in Alabama and want to volunteer? Here are some helpful links:
Check out these links for several more ways to help, including how to make online donations:
- Huffington Post—Severe Storms in the South: How You Can Help
- Red Cross Needs Help for Alabama Tornado Victims
- MSNBC: How to find, help tornado victims
Here are some before and after shots from Tuscaloosa, and this Al.com Photo Essay really paints a vivid, real picture of the widespread destruction and devastation. Click here to see a scary video of one the twisters in Tuscaloosa. Another crazy video:
More facts, figures and up-to-date information regarding developing weather and the events from last week can be found at the Alabama Weather Blog.
Please consider giving to the cause. You never realize how horrible something like this is until it’s in your own backyard. And right now, the people of the South (especially Alabama) are hurting. And you can help.