- (Photo: Reuters/Lauren Wood)
There have been at least eleven new deaths from tornadoes that ravaged Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, according to officials on Monday. The twisters moved across the South, bringing the total death toll to 29 and threatening nearly 75 million Americans in the region.
"Scattered to numerous severe thunderstorms will affect portions of the lower Mississippi and Tennessee valleys into central and eastern gulf states this afternoon into tonight. Several tornadoes, a few of which could be strong. Very large hail and straight line damaging winds appear likely," the National Weather Service stated in the latest warning Tuesday morning.
At least 17 people were killed in Arkansas and Oklahoma earlier on Sunday during the tornado outbreak, leaving scores of homes and businesses destroyed. Fox News shared that tens of thousands of people were without power in Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi, while thousands of others remained in basements and shelters.
CNN called the scope of the severe weather "staggering" and noted that people from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast, and from the Midwest to the East Coast are under threat, which makes up a third of the country, or close to 75 million people.
The National Weather's Storm Prediction Center said that there were 80 reports of tornadoes from 3 p.m. CDT Monday through 2 a.m.
States of emergency were declared in several states, including Mississippi, where Gov. Phil Bryant warned that the storm has the potential to create dangerous conditions.
"Residents should not overreact but should make plans now to ensure they are prepared for a variety of conditions, including strong winds and rains and the possibility of hail and tornadoes. Know how to receive emergency information and know where you will go if you need to seek shelter," Gov. Bryant said.
The Weather Channel delivered state-by-state updates on the storm's path, with several eye-witnesses testifying to the severity of the damage.
"I'm in the middle of devastation," The Weather Channel meteorologist Kait Parker said from Salem, Ala. "I'm absolutely in the middle of devastation here. There's more than structural damage here. We're talking about a neighborhood that's gone."
Relief agencies such as the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, which often sends teams to natural disaster areas in the U.S., said that it is sending chaplains along with Samaritan's Purse representatives to Arkansas and Oklahoma to assess "how we can best serve the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the survivors following yesterday's deadly tornadoes."