214 killed as tornadoes sweep southern US

214 killed as tornadoes sweep southern US

Alabama’s state emergency management agency said it had confirmed 131 deaths, while there were over 30 in Mississippi, 24 in Tennessee, 13 in Georgia, eight in Virginia and one in Kentucky.

The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahama, said it received 137 tornado reports around the region into Wednesday night.

“We were in the bathroom holding on to each other and holding on to dear life,” said Samantha Nail, who lives in a blue-collar subdivision in the Birmingham suburb of Pleasant Grove where the storm slammed heavy pickup trucks into ditches and obliterated tidy brick houses, leaving behind a mess of mattresses, electronics and children’s toys scattered across a grassy plain where dozens used to live. “If it wasn’t for our concrete walls, our home would be gone like the rest of them.”

In Alabama, where as many as a million people were without power, Governor Robert Bentley said 2,000 national guards had been activated and were helping to search devastated areas for people still missing. He said that the National Weather Service and forecasters did a good job of alerting people, but that there is only so much that can be done to deal with powerful tornadoes a mile wide.

One of the hardest-hit areas was Tuscaloosa, a city of more than 83,000 and home to the University of Alabama. A massive tornado, caught on video by a news camera on a tower, barreled through late Wednesday afternoon, leveling the city.

The storm system spread destruction from Texas to New York, where dozens of roads were flooded or washed out.

The governors of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia each issued emergency declarations for parts of their states.

“Our hearts go out to all those who have been affected by this devastation,” Obama said in a statement.

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