As investigators continue to comb through the wreckage, the scope of the disaster is becoming more clear. At last report, the National Weather Service reports Wednesday’s outbreak included 211 tornadoes, an all-time record for a 24 hour period. With the death toll approaching 350, it makes this tornado outbreak the second deadliest in U.S. history. The greatest loss of life from tornadoes in a single day occurred in 1925 when tornadoes killed 725.
With so much damage to analyze, investigators are having a tough time determining the overall intensity and strength of all 211 of these tornadoes. Officially just one tornado in Mississippi has been classified an EF-5, the highest intensity on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Several other tornadoes, including the twister that traveled more than 300 miles through Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and other areas so far is listed as “EF-3 or greater.”
As for efforts to complete these surveys on time, we’ll have an announcement in the coming days to tell you about how Iowa Storm Chasing is taking part in the efforts to complete the work.
One reason for the large number of lives lost in Alabama and surrounding states is a problem not common here in Iowa. In these areas, many homes are not built with basements and there are a larger number of mobile homes, considered by experts to be virtual death traps when a strong tornado strikes. The effect of all this was that many could only seek shelter in interior rooms or bathrooms. Normally that’s a good move, but with tornadoes as strong as these, it simply wasn’t safe enough.
At this hour there is still concern some may still be alive but trapped in the rubble. There are concerns that some people did seek refuge in storm shelters that are now buried beneath the rubble. Crews in these areas are still working today to make sure that everyone is accounted for and that all areas are checked before large earth moving equipment moves in. It’s a daunting task to account for the missing in hopes of finding a few more survivors.
We’ll continue to monitor the latest developments from the south and again, we’ll bring you a special announcement on how we will help in the investigation efforts in Alabama as soon as we can.