A US flag sticks out the window of a damaged hot rod in a
suburban area after a tornado near Vilonia, Arkansas.
At least 34 people across six states have been killed in
tornadoes unleashed by a ferocious storm system that razed
neighborhoods and threatened more destruction in heavily
populated parts of the US South.
In Arkansas and Mississippi, the hardest hit states, there
have been 27 confirmed storm-related deaths and more than 200
people injured over the last three days as tornadoes reduced
homes to splinters, snapped trees like twigs and sent trucks
flying through the air like toys.
Deaths were also reported in Oklahoma and Iowa on Sunday, and
Alabama and Tennessee on Monday.
Makeshift shelters have been set up for thousands of families
forced out of their homes while the National Guard, local
police and residents who had lost all their possessions
sifted through the rubble looking for more victims.
"People were running around screaming, trying to find their
kids. There was nothing left," Melba Reed said as she
described the aftermath of a tornado in Louisville,
Mississippi, a town of about 7,000 in the central part of the
In Tupelo's Park Hill, a traditionally black and densely
populated neighborhood, the sound of chainsaws reverberated
in the air as children joined adults to help remove debris
and residents took to the streets handing out grilled hotdogs
to anyone in need of food.
"I am overwhelmed - of course the damage is overwhelming, but
the outpouring of people to help lend a land is overwhelming,
too," said Denise Hardin, who works at the Tupelo Housing
'UNDER THE GUN'
A massive area home to tens of millions of people stretching
across large parts of the South and into Pennsylvania and
Ohio was under some threat from the storm system that spawned
the tornadoes, forecasters said.
"We will see tornadoes again today and unfortunately, the
areas that are under the gun today are the same ones that
were under the gun yesterday," said Bill Bunting, operations
chief at the National Weather Service's Storm Predictions
Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Southern and eastern Mississippi as well as central and
western Alabama were under the highest threats for tornadoes,
damaging winds and hail, he said.
Tens of thousands of customers along the path of the storm
were without power on Tuesday morning, with the worst outages
in parts of Alabama and Georgia, utility companies reported.
In western North Carolina, fire department personnel used
boats to rescue people from homes and vehicles hit by flash
floods during the night.
In Arkansas, residents of central Faulkner County, where most
of the damage occurred, sorted through the rubble as they
tried to piece their lives back together.
"When you talk about a tornado, it's just in a matter of
moments that your whole home is missing, your belongings,
your personal effects," said Matt Payne, a volunteer helping
in the relief efforts.
The White House said President Barack Obama declared a major
disaster in Arkansas and ordered federal aid to supplement
state and local recovery efforts.
Some tornadoes registered an EF-3 on the Enhanced Fujita
scale that measures strength, meaning they packed winds of
about 150 mph (240 kph), according to preliminary estimates
from the National Weather Service in Alabama.
In Tupelo, Mississippi, which was in the path of a tornado on
Monday, police were going house to house searching for
victims and trying to seal any gas leaks that could fuel
More than 2,000 houses and 100 commercial properties have
been reported damaged.
Officials were also picking through the rubble in Lincoln
County, Tennessee, near the Alabama state line, where a
tornado touched down on Monday, killing two people.
"The roof is just wiped away from South Lincoln Elementary
School," said water department worker Tammy Allen.
"They had a bus that was slammed into the front door of the
school. It's all just devastating," she said.