Saturday, March 03, 2012

Dozens dead as storms sweep across US

At least 27 people have died after more than 60 reported tornadoes swept across the mid-west and southern US yesterday.

One town was virtually wiped from the map as winds of up to 200 km/h tore up trees, ripped buildings from their foundations and tossed vehicles into the air. Mayor Mike Moore said the town of Marysville, some 60 km from Indiana, was "gone".

Others told a similar story. "That's the information we have, that Marysville is no longer," US Senator Dan Coats told CNN. The nearby town of Henryville was also badly damaged and where the first deaths were reported.

Pictures broadcast by the networks showed areas flattened by the storms, with houses turned to matchwood. Vehicles on highways were tossed aside by the high winds and pictures showed overturned HGVs and a school bus that had been thrown into a house.

The storms, which stretched across a vast part of the US Midwest, came only days after another system killed 13 people. Throughout the day, the National Weather Service had  warned of severe weather that included rain, hail and the likelihood of tornadoes. Hail the size of golf balls hit many areas and at one point there were over 50 tornado warnings for an area of 1.4 million square kilometres stretching across several states, home to more than 75 million people.

It was compared by some meteorologists to the Super Outbreak of tornadoes of April 1974, though that killed some 300 people, far more than the dozens killed this week. [ / RMS report - PDF]

Some fear that with the tornado season proper, still a couple of months away, the worst may be yet to come. Last years storms killed some 340 people and also brought widespread destruction [Wikipedia].

But these recent storms were bad enough for many. "It was catastrophic," one resident said, "You really don't have an understanding of it until you see it for yourself."

There were a few miracles as the winds subsided and shifted to the east coast and northern Florida. One 2-year-old girl was found safe in a field a few kilometres outside Henryville. It is not known if she came from the town or who she is, but it is hoped despite her condition, described as critical, that she'll survive [CNN].

The death toll is expected to rise as rescue workers pick through the debris that stretches across Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee [Fox News / CNN / BBC / Sky News].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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