News > Southern USA tornado event largest ever
The extraordinary sequence of tornadoes that battered the southern United States last week, killing at least 350 people and causing billions of dollars worth of damage, involved by far the largest number of tornadoes ever recorded in a single event in the country's history. According to figures released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a total of 362 tornadoes were recorded between 8am on Monday 25th April and 8am on Thursday 28th April, with 312 of those taking place in the 24 hours starting at 8am on Wednesday 27th April. This demolished the previous record of 148, recorded in April 1974.
In Alabama, the hardest-hit state, 249 people were reported dead throughout the three days of storms, with at least 101 more fatalities reported in Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, Virginia and Louisiana. The 340 fatalities in the 24 hour period from 8am on Wednesday 27th April made this the most deadly single day of tornadoes since 18th March 1925, when 747 fatalities were recorded across seven states.
Estimates suggest that around 10,000 homes and buildings were destroyed. The Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in Alabama was forced to shut down as workers repaired damaged transmission lines, and valuable crops in one of America's most important food producing regions were seriously damaged. President Obama, determined to avoid the delays that marked the previous government's muddled response to Katrina, toured Atlanta on 29th April and promised federal aid to help rebuild the wrecked communities. "I have never seen devastation like this. It is heartbreaking," said Obama. "This is something I don't think anyone has seen before."
One single tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama, on 27th April caused at least 65 deaths. With a maximum width of 1.5 miles and a track 80 miles long, it was the country's deadliest single tornado since 1955. "It sounded like a chain-saw. You could hear the debris hitting things. All I have left is a few clothes and tools that were too heavy for the storm to pick up. It doesn't seem real," said Steve Niven, 24, a student at the university. "I can buy new things but you cannot replace the people. I feel sorry for those who lost loved ones."