Alabama tornadoes: Storms rip through South, more than 220 dead

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) — Devastating storms and tornadoes raked though the South, killing at least 185 people as they ripped houses to rubble, flipped cars and uprooted trees and power lines, officials said on Thursday.

In the deadliest series of storms in nearly four decades in the United States, 128 people were killed in Alabama, the worst-hit state.

In Mississippi, 32 were killed, while 10 people died in Georgia and 11 in Arkansas. Louisiana and Tennessee also reported deaths as the clusters of powerful tornadoes and storms tore a swathe of destruction from west to east.

Some of the worst devastation occurred on Wednesday in Alabama, where a massive mile-wide tornado slammed into Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama, killing at least 15 people, including some students.

Tuscaloosa resident Jannie Ross said she and her family took shelter in the basement of their home when the tornado struck.

"We could hear debris hitting the side of our house, glass breaking and the train sound often attributed to big storms such as these," she told the University of Alabama newspaper, The Crimson White.

"We could hear it destroying everything outside."

President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency for the state and ordered federal aid.
"Our hearts go out to all those who have been affected by this devastation and (we) stand ready to continue to help the people of Alabama," Obama said in a message on Twitter on Thursday.

The storms also forced the Tennessee Valley Authority to close three nuclear reactors at a power plant in Alabama and knocked out 25 high-voltage power lines. Hundreds of thousands of homes have lost power.

"We have never experienced such a major weather event in our history," said the Tennessee Valley Authority, a U.S.-owned company that provides electricity to 9 million people in seven states.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency and said he was deploying 2,000 National Guardsmen. Governors in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee also declared states of emergency.

"We’re in a search and rescue mode. We’re making sure that those that may be out there that are trapped, that we have not found, we are trying to find them," Bentley told CNN.

"There has been massive devastation across northern Alabama. These long-track tornadoes really tear up the landscape as well as homes," he said.

Devastating Damage

Tornadoes are a regular feature of life in the South and Midwest, but they are rarely so devastating.

Images from Tuscaloosa, a town of around 95,000 in the west-central part of the state, showed widespread damage.

"Everybody says it (a tornado) sounds like a train and I started to hear the train," Anthony Foote, a resident of Tuscaloosa whose house was badly damaged, told Reuters. "I ran and jumped into the tub and the house started shaking. Then glass started shattering."

The campus of the University of Alabama, home of the famous Crimson Tide football team, was not badly damaged but some students were killed off campus, Bentley said.

Damage in Alabama was spread over a wide area through the north and central part of the state, said Jennifer Ardis, Bentley’s press secretary.

The highest toll was in Franklin County in the rural northwest part of the state where 18 people died, according to figures from the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.

Eleven people died in Jefferson County, home to Birmingham, the state’s largest city, the agency figures showed.

Authorities in Alabama and Mississippi said they expect the death toll to rise as emergency workers attempt rescues and recovery in the storm’s wake.


US military tried, but failed to rescue journalist…

The U.S. military earlier this year tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria ,but failed to find the captives.


Fate of captured beluga whales in hands of…

A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.


After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.


'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.


'Doctor Who' personality profile: the 4 Doctors

When the time comes for a new Doctor, there's always some anxiety over the big question: Who will he be? The series owes its longevity…


Billy Crystal to commemorate late actor Robin Williams…

  Comedian Billy Crystal will pay tribute to late actor Robin Williams at television's Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 25, the show's organizers said on…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

GAMES Hudson Common Open Aug. 21, 7 p.m. Hudson Common 356 W. 58 St. Free, The U.S. Open begins on Monday, but most of…


Review: Sadly, Matthew Weiner's 'Are You Here' is…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner tries his hand at movies with "Are You Here," a misjudged Owen Wilson-Zach Galifianakis comedy that turns into a drama.


Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.


Jalen Saunders still unsure what caused car accident…

Jets rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since his car accident, but he didn't say a whole lot.


2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)


2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)


Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…


Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…


Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…


Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…