Storms Continue to Threaten South; 11 Lives Already Lost in Southeast

By Brian K. Sullivan | April 29, 2014

Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms are expected to sweep across the U.S. South, threatening more damage to a region where dozens died in the past two days.

There’s a moderate risk of severe storms, high winds and hail from eastern Mississippi across Alabama, where about 2.5 million people live, the U.S. Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said. There’s also a chance the storms may develop in a larger area, from Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico.

“Today, the greatest threat is going to be a little bit further east, in eastern Mississippi and especially Alabama,” Gary Best of Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire told Bloomberg. “By tomorrow, the threat is going to be across the Carolinas.”

The dangerous weather across the Midwest and South beginning April 26 has killed at least 28 people, according to the Associated Press.

The Storm Prediction Center received 114 reports of tornadoes across 12 states in the past two days, along with reports of large hail and damaging wind gusts.

Search and rescue operations are underway in the hardest-hit state of Arkansas. Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said at least 14 people died statewide in the storm — nine came from the same street in the town of Vilonia.

Officials have reported at least 11 deaths in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

A tornado hit Tupelo, Mississippi, at 3 p.m., damaging hundreds of homes and toppling utility lines and trees.

As many as 101,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in Alabama and Georgia, according to utility companies.

“The severe weather outbreak that occurred on Tuesday, April 28, was caused by the continued slow movement of an upper-level low in combination with high levels of atmospheric instability and deep layer shear,” said Scott Stransky, manager and principal scientist at catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide.

Alabama is currently under a government-ordered state of emergency, as tornadoes impacted much of the northern part of that state. AIR Worldwide said preliminary reports indicate heavy damage to multiple homes in Dekalb County, along with the destruction of buildings in Jefferson County, including the Kimberly Fire Department. Tornadoes were also reported in Franklin, Colbert, Lawrence, Marion, Cullman, and Tuscaloosa Counties.

The area with the highest chance of severe weather includes southeastern Mississippi through central Alabama, where the low level environment should provide adequate support for long-lasting, rotating thunderstorms with accompanying tornadoes, hail, and strong winds. Other states at risk, especially for strong wind gusts and damaging hail, include: Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, the Florida panhandle, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and small areas of Maryland and Pennsylvania. A few isolated tornadoes in these areas are also possible, AIR said.

In total, almost 75 million people are under some threat of severe weather today, according to the Storm Prediction Center, spanning an area of over 450,000 square miles.

Best of Hometown Forecast Services said cooler weather in the mid-Atlantic States and Northeast will keep tornadoes away.

“Then after that, it moves out to sea,” he said. “There really isn’t any severe weather by the end of the week.”

Last year, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms caused about $16.3 billion in losses across the U.S., more than any other type of natural disaster, the Insurance Information Institute said.

Sources: Bloomberg, AIR Worldwide, U.S. Storm Prediction Center, The Associated Press

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