Death toll passes 290 as swaths of South devastated


first_imgTwisters likely among largest, strongest ever recordedPLEASANT GROVE, Ala. (AP) — Firefighters searched one splintered pile after another for survivors Thursday, combing the remains of houses and neighborhoods pulverized by the nation’s deadliest tornado outbreak in almost four decades. At least 291 people were killed across six states — more than two-thirds of them in Alabama, where large cities bore the half-mile-wide scars the twisters left behind.The death toll from Wednesday’s storms seems out of a bygone era, before Doppler radar and pinpoint satellite forecasts were around to warn communities of severe weather. Residents were told the tornadoes were coming up to 24 minutes ahead of time, but they were just too wide, too powerful and too locked onto populated areas to avoid a horrifying body count.“These were the most intense super-cell thunderstorms that I think anybody who was out there forecasting has ever seen,” said meteorologist Greg Carbin at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. “If you experienced a direct hit from one of these, you’d have to be in a reinforced room, storm shelter or underground” to survive, Carbin said.The storms seemed to hug the interstate highways as they barreled along like runaway trucks, obliterating neighborhoods or even entire towns from Tuscaloosa to Bristol, Va. One family rode out the disaster in the basement of a funeral home, another by huddling in a tanning bed.last_img