Three Children Are Among 23 People Killed by Storms in Southeast

Search-and-rescue workers raced on Monday to help the rural Alabama communities that had been ravaged by tornadoes. Officials said they expected the death toll to rise.

Comments: 104

  1. Portlight is a charity that specializes in disaster relief started by meteorologists. They particularly focus on disaster preparedness and caring for the disabled.

  2. Expect more of these storms until we address global warming.

  3. I don’t yield to much of anybody in taking the ways we’re warming the planet seriously, but the scientific consensus seems to be that it’s not really possible to attribute a spate of tornadoes to the ways we’re warming the planet seriously.

  4. @Robert Correct. I am in this field and have not read any such studies of supercells in warming environments. If anyone knows of such a paper, I'd be happy to read it. For example, 2018 saw just 10 deaths. Was climate change not a factor for 2018? Theoretically, warmer environments brought by climate change could increase buoyancy, a necessary ingredient for these storms. But storms are much more complex than that. Tornadogenesis is not well understood. We cannot implicate climate change until either statistics or theory presents substantial evidence. That said, it's entirely possible that in 20-40 years these storms may become more frequent, thus increasing the frequency of deadly events.

  5. @Robert that's certainly not the consensus. Let's be clear. There is a difference between climate and weather. One extreme weather event or even ten may not be related to climate change. We are seeing more intense storms though, and the consensus is that this is related to climate change. Tornadoes are a bit of a mystery, but they arise from the same processes that give us other intense weather events. The warmer it is, the more evaporation there is from the oceans, and the stronger the resulting storms are,

  6. Interesting that these very areas contain the highest proportion of climate change deniers in our country. As that trooper said "We've never seen anything like this!" Isn't that the very definition of "change" ?

  7. @Frank What's "interesting" is how political partisans take delight in the death and suffering of others based on where they live and a presumption of how they vote and how they think. When these partisans say "deniers" aren't they really admitting that the "deniers" are undesirables and deserve to be eliminated? Disgusting.

  8. Proof for that claim, please? And as find as I am of the ol’ schadenfreud, is this really a good time for schadenfreud?

  9. @Frank, I grew up in Lee County. While I don't remember any as deadly as this, tornadoes were fairly common when I was I kid, including one that came within a quarter mile of my elementary school. I believe in science, and I'm not saying things aren't changing, just that Alabama tornadoes aren't a new phenomenon. I feel fortunate that my family is all safe and I am so sorry for those who have been impacted by this.

  10. "By Sunday evening, more than 150 people volunteered to help in the search-and-rescue effort." That information alone gives some hope that even when all is lost, people are still willing to help those in need.

  11. Sheriff Jay Jones of Lee County, speaking to CNN on Monday morning, said,“We have not had anything quite like this in our area ever, that I know of.” This would mean we need to build new disaster management center in more areas. I hope we are allocating budgets for these preparations. We may have to scale back the trillion dollar tax cut and allocate a portion of that to FEMA.

  12. @SridharC It means new construction needs to include storm cellars.

  13. Best of luck to all affected; sounds pretty awful down there.

  14. Alabama is devastated by this tragedy, and our citizens are united in grief and hope. We, as always, will work together to make this community whole again. I was shocked by President Trump's tweet to give Alabama the "A+ FEMA treatment." I recall him giving himself an "A" for the national effort after the hurricane in Puerto Rico -- and they are still suffering months and months after the event. Disaster sites are not popularity contests or reality shows, to be judged by Trump and who he "likes" or who voted for him. Every tragedy and its victims deserve respect, compassion and empathy. Every person and every community deserve to be treated the same way, and that is the BEST WAY that our great country can provide. Whether it's a tornado, hurricane, snow storm, forrest fire, gun fire, drought or flood, FEMA works for ALL OF US. And none should ever be treated worse than another. Got bless America!

  15. @Alabama Speaks Actually, if you were in New Orleans Labor Day weekend in 2005, FEMA doesn't help the way they should. The same goes for Puerto Rico last year; however, as someone else wrote, blaming does not help. Volunteering does, and I will, if possible. I am Physically, I am unable to anymore; however I can and am willing to help in an organizational fashion. I am going to contact the agencies involved.

  16. FEMA is not a first responder. It takes them a while to get set up and then make sure you fill out the paperwork right the first time. In the meantime it is up to local officials, fire, police and volunteers I try to find local organizations to make donations online. I feel like money gets to people who need it faster that way.

  17. @Alabama Speaks Trump wants to help the areas that vote for him. Notice that not only did he not say that California would get the "A+" treatment after the devastating wildfires last year, but he actually threatened to pull aid altogether. He is a small, small man.

  18. What a tragic situation, I feel grateful it wasn't where I live. I wish we'd all stop blaming each other and help instead. It might actually really make us feel better about ourselves.

  19. @John Doe Glad for you as well that this horrific series of tornados did not effect you, your loved ones or your neighbors. Your words are probably the most powerful and truthful ones I've read this morning. A heartfelt thank you for writing them.

  20. @John Doe I've been helping for a long time, every time I vote I help, they can also help themselves by voting something else ....

  21. One of my most indelible childhood memories is from when I was 6 yrs. old and living in Ohio. My parents woke up my brothers and sister and me very early one morning and took down to the basement in our pajamas, because of a tornado warning. It still makes me shiver when I think of it. My mother was from Kansas so she knew something about tornadoes. I am so sorry for the people who have lost loved ones and homes in these deadly tornadoes, and hope they will receive the help they need to rebuild their lives.

  22. Dear Alabama, so sorry you have been so damaged and hurt by these violent storms. Many of us, will be donating to the Red Cross and others to help you get back on your feet. Unfortunately, Alabama, these storms will be the norm or will intensify as our Earth continues to be damaged and pillaged. Climate China is real, and affecting each of us already. Please consider this when you vote next time!

  23. @Mari Your Freudian slip of "Climate China" instead of climate change is so on point. China is your biggest polluter. China is building about 1200 coal fired power plants right now. Don't blame the people of Alabama for a tornado.

  24. Smokey the Bear says: "Only you can prevent forest fires. Vote."

  25. Is this the time to make a political statement?

  26. My thoughts and prayers go out to the state of Alabama right now. Absolutely horrific.

  27. We need to assert that Trump must not be allowed to raid 2 billion dollars from storm-response funding to build his Wall - and in a country with infrared sensors on drones, we need to equip people with the means to live in homes stronger than prefabricated shacks and mobile homes.

  28. If America took better care of its citizens they wouldn't be living in flimsy trailers in tornado zones. But providing a decent retirement or disability payment to all law abiding American citizens would mean taking money away from billionaires, I mean would be detrimental to the economy.

  29. Why does the government let people rebuild there as it will happen again and again. No one ever heard of these tornadoes before governments allowed citizens to build in tornado prone areas. Some areas in nations should just be off limits for buildings and people. USA is a big country so there's plenty of other safer locations they can rebuild in. You'd think insurance companies would push for a government change in legislation to allow people to live there, as it would increase their profits.

  30. @CK It's not that easy. The entire midwest is susceptible to tornadoes. They're more common in Oklahoma than anywhere but not by all that much. Tornadoes are so small that the odds of being hit by one is also small.

  31. @CK: Your comment is way off--Tornado country covers a large part of the country: the South, a good part of the Southwest, just about all of the Midwest, and they've even been known to touch down on parts of the Northeast.

  32. I was about to write something less than constructive, but then went to check some facts - Lee County went only 58% Trump in 2016. Just in case that helps temper anyone else's thoughts.

  33. Storms don’t care which oval you penciled in on ballot. Let’s leave politics out please. FYI, Lee County is home to a large university & the corresponding diversity of its students & employees.

  34. @Ramie Well the oval you pencil in the ballot absolutely indicates how much support you think the federal government should provide to any and all victims of natural disasters. I like to see people acting consistently in that regard. And FYI, my comment was meant to highlight the very fact you cite about the university.

  35. Sending money and love to my fellow Americans a couple thousand miles away.

  36. Before we bicker, let us help and pray for our fellow citizens.

  37. Can Congress re-appropriate the money Trump is co-opting for his wall to help these people? I can only imagine the pain and suffering the victims must be experiencing. Helping them get the practical parts of their lives back in order (shelter, food, etc.) will go a long way to help them start grieving and recovering.

  38. Now, solidarity is OK, now, FEMA federal money is OK, no thoughts and prayers for the pious Alabamans? Maybe we could build a few coal fired plants there ... just to help the local economy?

  39. It used to be that Tornado Season was May through November, and they were almost always in the South and Plains States. Now there are tornadoes in every part of the continent in almost every month of the year. But no, there is no such thing as climate change. And it isn't happening quickly on a geologic scale, right? Well, it used to be that we measured significant changes occurring over hundreds of years. Now they are happening in the time span of a single generation.

  40. What's the best countermeasure against a tornado? I'd like a round masonry foxhole with a the lid to keep snakes out.

  41. @Heckler: As I've remarked in a previous comment, there are such things as tornado cellars, with a lid.

  42. Wonder if the southern Republicans who balked at healing the Northeast from Sandy will demand budget offsets for relief for these people?

  43. Let's send hope and prayers! That fixes everything.

  44. This is a tragedy, especially the loss of life. Why do these disasters seem to continue to strike amongst the States that continue to deny climate change?

  45. @MoneyRules Because the laws of the physical universe are reacting against those who deny reality by insistently believe that the laws of the universe don't exist. Deniers say, the facts are what they say they are, until in fact, they get whacked with the real hard facts of physical reality like what happened to the poor folks in Alabama with all their gigantic trucks and SUV's. And not to mention, what is happening with increasing frequency all over the planet. So, keep on swearing that there's no such thing as climate change. But no matter how hard, long and sincerely you swear, sooner or later climate change itself is going to finally make a believer out of you.

  46. I am located on the state line of FL and AL. Yesterday about noon it got really dark and quiet for about 30 seconds. Then it brightened and it rained. 10 minutes later, a tornado touched down about 10 or 12 miles north east of my house. Thankfully there were no deaths. I appreciate the kind words that I have read in the comments. I understand that Alabama doesn't elicit much in the sympathy department. So your graciousness means even more to me.

  47. I lived in St Croix, USVI for 5 years, shortly after Hurricane Hugo. They celebrate Hurricane Supplication Day - essentially praying that any hurricanes will hit other Caribbean islands, not St. Croix.

  48. While the tornado destruction and loss of lives are horrendous, the caption on the "metal" wrapped around the tree in Beauregard is erroneous, it's plastic.

  49. Nah, there's no climate change. Trump says so. GOP says so. Kochs and energy corporations and motley other business moguls. California and its stupid wildfires, which, of course, simply could be prevented if California would just learn from the Finns how to rake their millions of square miles of forest floors. Which are federal government square miles. Nah, Puerto Rico was just fine, last time we looked, doing great, using all those paper towels Trump threw at them to mop it up and suck it up. And that's an island in a very big ocean, where questionable, off-white citizens don't really matter anyhow so, you know, not a state here at home where it matters more. We shouldn't wish Alabama's misery on anybody. Certainly not the rest of the world when dealing with climate change is no longer possible. When we all are either on fire or under water or damaged by violent storms of the century every day. Mira Lago, soon to be Mira Glub Glub won't even escape.

  50. Where are the charlatan Christian zealot preachers claiming they know why God has done this? What sins has Alabama committed to bring this devastation upon their heads? Hate? Bigotry? Black voter suppression? Lynchings? White supremacy? KKK? Climate change denial? Environmental desecration? Supporting Trump? Voting to deny women the right to control over their bodies? Being a red state? So many transgressions, so few plagues. Tell us preachers! Why does Alabama deserve this?

  51. @Bernie Portner - Alabama doesn't "deserve" to have 23 people killed and taken away from their families. Find a better place to exercise the stereotype game.

  52. This story is incomplete. What happened to Loki the cat?

  53. I’m wondering how this is going to turn out to be the fault of LGBTQ Americans???!!!!

  54. sorry Alabama. trump put all the money and personnel into building his wall. Dump carney donny and shift the $100s of millions that we waste on his hotels, golfing, rallies and photo ops to people suffering in Alabama!

  55. It will be interesting to see whether the President follows his one-time practice of visiting the scene of a disaster to throw paper towels at the survivors.

  56. see whether the President reverts back to his one-time practice of visiting the scene of a disaster to throw paper towels at the survivors.

  57. After more than 20 people were killed in Alabama following a tornado on Sunday, Trump tweeted he’d told the Federal Emergency Management Agency to give the state “the A Plus treatment.” —from the “Trump Today” column on Market Watch Puerto Rico, on the other hand, got (and is still getting) the “F Minus” treatment. I guess the American citizens of Puerto Rico didn’t do enough for His Highness.

  58. The National Weather Service correctly forecast the danger of this happening in that general area a couple of days ago. I thought they could also give a few 10s of minutes warning to specific areas so that people could get to shelters. I'm wondering if the Weather Service didn't warn people or if people didn't pay attention to the warnings or they had no way to take shelter or what exactly happened?

  59. @roseberry Some people may not have basements. Where my parents live in Indiana (a state that also gets tornadoes) they have a basement, but the water table is so high that many of their neighbors don't. If the local water table in Alabama is high, people may lack basements and be out of luck.

  60. @roseberry There used to be sirens that would sound an alarm. I could hear it and I live 4 miles from the source. They did not go off yesterday. I joined a county alert system that sends a notification to my cell number. Unfortunately my cell doesn't work at home. I can receive texts but no phone calls. I was supposed to get an alert that sounds like the radio warning on my cell. This did not happen. I do not have internet service at home - not for the past 11 years. More importantly though, we have a weather radio, so we were informed. I am located at the bottom of the state of AL. The tornado that touched down a few miles from my house - went over my house a few minutes earlier. It happened so fast. All I knew is that it got very dark for about 30 to 45 seconds. Later we found out that it had touched down in a nearby community. As for shelter ... I live in a brick house and have a hallway that we can use. Many people here live in mobile homes. There is no protection for them. This happened so quickly. I had my TV on the Weather Channel most of the day. Not every tornado makes a signature on radar. Plus there were so many happening at the same time. Our tornado just kind of happened and by the time alerts did go out, it was pretty much over. A battery powered weather radio should be in everyone's home. There is no Weather Channel when the power goes out.

  61. @Letitia Jeavons There are basements in some homes in Lee County area (a search on Zillow reveals this info). Also local businesses that do basement waterproofing, just like in the north. Certainly true that many areas are too wet, not sure that is the case in this county?

  62. We have fires, you in Alabama and other Southern states have tornadoes. We recognize our dying forests are the result of climate change, our glaciers in the Sierra Nevada are shrinking, our rivers have less runoff than only 40 years ago. We are working to mitigate these effects, reducing use of fossil fuels, raising mileage standards. All the while being derided by a president your area placed in office, along with your legislators that deny such events are exacerbated by those things. You make fun of us out here on the coast, calling us liberals because we collect and try to understand the facts. Some of you evangelicals say it is because we are sinners and god is punishing us for our progressive views, and it costs those good corporate operations money to help prevent such events. Now possible you may see the error of your ways, you are helping each other, so help all of us keeping the air water, and land clean, not just your immediate neighbors, all of us are in this together.

  63. EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes have stronger winds than a category 5 hurricane. These poor souls never had a chance.

  64. I’m with all you writers who are disgusted with the reign of Trump et al. Now how about some compassion for the human lives that are suffering and lost? A lot of these comments on this article featuring a family cowering in their bathroom with a teenager saying “I don’t want to die” are obnoxious. The casual cruelty of these commentators remind me of......Donald Trump.

  65. @Dixie Who helped put Trump in office? Oh, that would be the people of Alabama. Happy to donate a case of bootstraps. Thoughts and prayers, by the way.

  66. New York birthed him and foisted him on us,how soon you people forget.

  67. Thanks for the compassion. No 80k people in the Rust Belt put him there. And I didn’t vote for him either.

  68. Just one more sign that it may be too late for the Green New Deal. Fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, record heat, record cold, rising sea levels, rising CO2 etc. It may already be too late. If so we should just all get Hummers, eat tons of meat, burn coal, burn oil, waste food and have a grand ol' time before everything implodes.

  69. @Gene - Yep. Tornadoes in March in the south. Has never happened before 'til "climate change" came along, right?

  70. @AZPurdue Yeah, but this was an EF-4. Not exactly common as the last one to hit the US was two years ago. You listen to people who actually study 'climate change' and they warn about the increased frequency of extreme weather events. Kind of like EF-4s.

  71. See Guy McPherson on Youtube

  72. Alabama gets "A-Plus treatment" from Emperor Putin while he withholds funds from California?

  73. I feel sorry for you guys in Alabama. Does insurance cover this kind of disaster?

  74. @New World: Probably not unless there's a specific inclusion. There's legal precedent from way back that tornadoes are "acts of God" and therefore not covered.

  75. Thankfully Trump has a socialist program called FEMA to help these people in time of crisis.

  76. It shameful that so many people in these poor red states live in mobile homes that blow away in a storm and in tornadoes. Of course they cannot afford insurance so they are left homeless.

  77. It's shameful who they send to Washington too.

  78. Kicking people when they are down?? Folks often speak of Trump’s lack of empathy? Where is yours?

  79. trump is promising "A+" disaster relief. The folks in Florida are still waiting for help 5 months after Hurricane Michael. Congress has yet to act on the Relief Fund.

  80. Since some fundamentalist preachers attribute fires and earthquakes in California to God's wrath over some perceived transgression, I'm looking forward to hearing what they might have to say about this tragic event.

  81. @Scott Liebling I was going to post the same exact sentiment. You're stealing my material!

  82. Thoughts and Prayers, and more blue state dollars of course !

  83. @Ray Maine What would suggest we do, ignore them and just look the other way?

  84. @Ray Maine The second part of your sentence kind of renders the first part a bit disingenuous. Don't you think.

  85. @Pataman We never do !

  86. Another weather caused tragedy. Lives lost, property destroyed, families in tears. One can only wonder why the citizens of these states are mostly supporting Trump-Pence-GOP position of ignoring the facts about climate change. How many more of their kin will be injured before they all 'see the light'?

  87. As a native of Alabama, my heart aches for the families of those killed or who lost their homes in these tornadoes Sunday. People who have been around these monsters know how terrifying, sudden and vicious the destruction can be. That said, it's been deeply disaspointing to read through many of the comments about this NYT story. No doubt, we do have a disaster of another kind in the White House today,....but that's another story with a different headline. It is offensive and meanspirited for anyone to politicize this moment when so many are hurting, at least right now barely a day after the storm roared through and so many are still missing. Those who would spew such self-serving meanness not only sound as if they are devoid of compassion, but also simpleminded.

  88. Whatever happened to tornado cellars, they used to be a big thing.

  89. I have been in several tornadoes here in Ohio, but nothing as destructive as this. I am so sorry for all the survivors that lost family, friends, and their homes.

  90. We had a tough winter storm overnight with heavy wet snow bringing down many pine tree branches. Then you look at what these Alabamians endured yesterday and our small troubles fade into insignificance. Stay strong Alabama. You will rebuild and come back better than ever.

  91. Unlike the inane border wall, this is a bona fide national emergency. At least 23 Americans are dead, scores injured, homes and business wrecked, and it will take years and millions of dollars to help these people recover. Take the border wall money and help these people pay medical bills and funeral costs, to rebuild their homes, and to get on with their lives.

  92. When you grow up in the south as I did (south GA), tornadoes are just part of it. I've now lived in the N. GA. mountains for 21 yrs. We've had several storms that produced tornadoes and damaged property, but not on this scale. It seems in the last 2 - 3 yrs. these storms are more intense , frequent, and are occurring earlier. One in December that experienced people guesstimated produced wind gusts of 80 - 100 mph., resulted in hundreds of trees down and extensive power outages. During tornado season (which historically started in April), I keep a bag of necessities at the ready for heading to the basement. When another unusually powerful storm hit last month, it wasn't yet packed. If this is the "new normal" for February, I dread what's to come. To the community of Beauregard, my heartfelt condolences.

  93. @Deb So sorry to hear of this devastation. Michigan has infrequent tornadoes, so we head to basements when a warning arises. Any experts available to explain why no basements in this area? I just read an analysis of soils in Lee County. AL (Beauregard) - soil drains well, and is good cropland, so excess moisture would not be the deterrent to digging basements. Other reasons besides budget?

  94. @Samantha - This is a guess on my part, but southern AL, like GA is pretty flat. Building a home on a flat lot is more costly to excavate, water proof and plumb if it is to be considered living space. So as you've concluded, it must come down to budget. But, it wouldn't be terribly expensive to construct a small concrete reinforced enclosure in a crawl space or as part of a slab foundation just big enough to provide shelter from tornado strength wind. I hope you never have to experience such - just the close calls I've been through were quite terrifying. Best wishes to you and Ann Arbor, MI - winter isn't over for you.... : )

  95. Heard the sirens before receiving phone and computer alerts. A few of the weather stations I review continued to have "watches" listed versus "warning". My sister called me to alert me of the change from watch to warning and the changed path, even before the emergency siren activated for my specific area. (I don't subscribe to cable) Having grown up in the Atlanta metro area and now moved to central GA., I expect to experience even more tornadoes. I continue to find the sirens are the most helpful and zero in on the exact area for which you live. These are the real emergencies. Helping those that have lost everything.

  96. @OpieTaylor Interesting. A lot of work is being done to determine the best communication methods. IIRC sirens ranks 3 or 4 behind social media and phone alerts.

  97. @michael I'm surprised to hear that. I spend most of every day in front of a screen because of my job, but there are often situations where I can't be paying constant attention to my phone or social media. I guess the problem with sirens is situating them where everyone can hear them. The population in many of these areas is quite sparse and spread out. That said, phone network coverage and internet infrastructure is not great either. I don't know what the solution is in a world where many people lack landlines now.

  98. @OpieTaylor Having to judge the quality of your available weather warning resources as it seems you must is definitely not an ideal situation. But having cable tv isn't the ultimate answer. If you have a cell phone there are quality apps that will through location services give you the information you need and perform more reliably than those radio sources that disappoint.

  99. It seems like wherever one turns, a decent chunk of America is either on fire, frozen, snowed in, flooded, or battered with gale force winds. When are we going to get serious about climate change?! If the weather isn't a wake up call, what is?

  100. “This is how things work in a small community: When help is needed, everyone gets together and gets it done,” said Scarlett Baker, who was serving as the de facto mayor of the relief operation at Providence. In defense of us “city-folk,” this is also how things work in large communities. Small towns do not hold a monopoly on humanity.

  101. "Most of the residences in the area are mobile or manufactured homes," and most of the known deaths occurred in these residences. Growing up in Kansas we called them tornado magnets. They simply blow apart with any sort of tornado. A community storm shelter should be required for any "manufactured home" community.

  102. @Brent, shelters would have been useless. There was no time. A friend and his son fled, only to have his vehicle lifted by the storm.