Rash of Tornadoes Cause Widespread Casualties

A spate of tornadoes and damaging thunderstorms across the Eastern half of the nation has left widespread damage and multiple casualties in its wake.

Devastating storms swept through the South on Wednesday, killing at least 60 people and spawning a tornado that tore through downtown Tuscaloosa, Ala. The evening twister flattened homes and buildings and brought further damage and death to a region already battered by storms.

Across Alabama, at least 50 people were killed by storms on Wednesday alone, according to officials. The Associated Press reported an additional 11 deaths in Mississippi, two in Georgia and one in Tennessee.

Actually that report has been updated since the NY Times story went to press. News reports this morning indicate that the death toll has risen to more than 80. How unusual is this? This single set of storms has now resulted in a greater loss of life than was seen for the entire tornado seasons each year from 2000 through 2007.

In addition to the severity of the storms, the danger is complicated by the fact that they are moving into areas where such activity is far more rare. We saw two tornadoes touch down in upstate New York last night alone. Great progress has been made in Tornado Alley in terms of forecasting, as well as alarm systems providing residents with crucial minutes of warning to seek shelter. Those systems are not as well established in regions closer to New England.

Let’s keep the families of those in the affected areas in our thoughts and prayers today.

EDIT: Yes, it’s Tornado “alley.” Thank you. We don’t want to promote allies of tornadoes.