Thursday, April 12 2012 4:09 PM EDT2012-04-12 20:09:27 GMT
Students at the University of Alabama hunkered down as a massive, mile-wide tornado came within a mile of the campus that houses thousands of people. It became the site of terror many of them had never experienced before.More >>
The spring of 2011 is shaping up to be a record-breaking season for weather fatalities. At 45, the number of people who have died from April storms now matches the total number of weather fatalities in 2010.More >>
SMITHVILLE, MS (RNN) - The National Weather Service has determined a twister that struck Smithville, MS during Wednesday's deadly tornado outbreak was an EF-5, producing winds of 205 miles per hour.More >>
President Barack Obama and his family toured the shattered remains of storm-ravaged neighborhoods in Tuscaloosa, AL, and offered hope and help as 19 Alabama counties and seven states attempt to recover from storms that killed more than 300 people.More >>
An especially violent spring storm tore through the state of Alabama on Wednesday, tearing a path of destruction across the state and killing at least 131 people.More >>
(RNN) - With the cleanup process under way and the death toll holding steady, federal, state and local officials are teaming up to put the pieces back together for the broken communities slashed by last week's devastating tornadoes.
Across the South, volunteers from everywhere are pitching in to aid some of the hardest-hit communities struck by the deadliest tornado outbreak since 1925.
"I don't think words can fairly express the level of devastation here," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who on Sunday toured the damage in Alabama. "I am not articulate enough. This is not going to be a quick comeback or an immediate one, but it will be, in my view, a complete one when all is said and done."
Saying he's praying for survivors, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley acknowledged the state is now entering "the recovery process" following last week's deadly tornado outbreak that killed 236.
"We will recover those loved ones who perished, with the dignity they deserve," he said in a speech to the joint body of the Alabama Legislature and broadcast to the entire state Tuesday night. "And we will proceed through this lengthy process with care and respect."
Bentley called the outbreak "the greatest natural disaster ever to hit our state" but pledged "we will see that Alabama is rebuilt."
"The road to recovery will be long and hard. But I will share that road with you as it leads to a greater, stronger Alabama," he said.
Alabama - 236
Tennessee - 36
Mississippi - 35
Georgia - 15
Arkansas - 15
Virginia - 5
Louisiana - 2
Kentucky - 1
Sadly, there are people taking advantage of the disaster victims, stealing items from the destroyed homes. Mayor Walt Maddox of Tuscaloosa imposed a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the damaged areas to help prevent the looting.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said there are arrests being made, and these cases will be taken seriously.
"We have made it clear that we are going to make prosecuting looters a high priority, hopefully discouraging people from coming to this area, and that's one of our missions," Strange said.
The scope of the disaster
More than half of Alabama's 67 counties, 38 of them, are now eligible for disaster assistance.
"When you see local, state and federal people cooperating like this, it really makes a difference," Bentley said when Obama came to visit Alabama on Friday.
Charlie Sheen even decided to make a stop in Alabama on Monday to see the storms' destruction first-hand.
"It's unlike anything I've ever seen," Sheen said during an interview with the Birmingham, AL, TV station WBRC. "I'm hopeful that I can do whatever I can to provide some compassion, hope."
At least 345 people were killed across eight states, including at least 236 in Alabama, which took the brunt of the storm.
There are 36 confirmed deaths in Tennessee, 35 in Mississippi, 15 in Georgia, 15 in Arkansas, five in Virginia, two in Louisiana and one in Kentucky.
Alabama's numbers were adjusted downward from 250, but a spokeswoman with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) said it will no longer release numbers until all counties have been individually searched, and all missing are accounted for.
FEMA has said it will continue to work closely with the states to support the needs of the disaster survivors and their communities.
"FEMA is part of a team that continues to work with communities to help them rebuild and recover," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said. "This administration will bring the full support of the federal government and its partners to bear to support the states, families and communities devastated by these deadly tornadoes, for as long as it takes."
FEMA money will cover some of the debris removal, leaving the affected communities' cash-strapped local governments trying to figure out how to pay for the rest of the recovery effort.
In Alabama, Bentley said the state will pay local governments' share for 30 days.
A month of fury
It's not just the numbers of deceased that are breaking records. The month of April turned out to be one for the record books.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 312 tornadoes were spawned during the 24-hour period between April 27 and 28, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
Previously, the largest previous number of tornadoes spawned in one April event occurred in 1974 with 148.
National Weather Service estimates indicate that more than 600 tornadoes were produced in April, far surpassing the normal average for the month, 161.
Flooding is now making it difficult for some of the affected areas to rebuild and recover.
According to WAFB, areas from eastern Oklahoma through Arkansas and into the mid-Mississippi Valley and the Ohio River basin have seen 10-20 inches of rain in the past four weeks, which is far above normal.
The numbers could reach near-record levels during mid- to late May.
Meanwhile, the number of customers who remain without power in Alabama has been cut by nearly two-thirds, from 1.1 million to around 407,000, according to AEMA. It could be another week for power is restored in some places.
One of the worst tornado outbreak in U.S. history occurred in March 1925 killing 747 people. An April 1974 storm spurred Congress to pass the Disaster Relief Act, which saw the formation of FEMA.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, over the past three years, property insurers have paid out more than $30 billion in claims due to tornadoes and thunderstorms.
Monday, April 30 2012 12:17 AM EDT2012-04-30 04:17:45 GMT
Most of the homes along Highway 20 in Hillsboro that were destroyed by those deadly tornadoes have been rebuilt, but there's still a long road to recovery. Lawrence Davis Jr. didn't imagine April 27th,More >>
Most of the homes along Highway 20 in Hillsboro that were destroyed by those deadly tornadoes have been rebuilt, but there's still a long road to recovery.More >>
Sunday, April 29 2012 12:24 AM EDT2012-04-29 04:24:01 GMT
The road to recovery still a long one ahead for a Harvest family that lost two loved ones from the April 27 tornadoes. Misty Cornwell held a memorial Saturday afternoon to remember her 15-year-old daughter,More >>
The road to recovery still a long one ahead for a Harvest family that lost two loved ones from the April 27 tornadoes. Misty Cornwell held a memorial Saturday afternoon to remember her 15-year-old daughter, Katie, and her father, Harold Fitzgerald, who were both killed by the storm one year ago.More >>
Thursday, April 26 2012 5:30 PM EDT2012-04-26 21:30:15 GMT
An August 29, 2011 Gov. Robert Bentley announced the formation of the Tornado Recovery Action Council, or TRAC. The group of industry and government leaders had a simple mission; to help Alabama recoverMore >>
The Tornado Recovery Action Council of Alabama researched and developed 20 key ways to improve disaster preparedness in the state.More >>
With the cleanup process under way and the death toll holding steady, federal, state and local officials are teaming up to put the pieces back together for the broken communities slashed by last week's devastating tornadoes.More >>