Deadly Storms Ravage The South; Alabama Hit Hard

Ferocious storms ravaged the South — pounding several states from Mississippi to Georgia on Wednesday. The worst hit state was Alabama, where a massive tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Let's go now to the heart of the storm damage across much of the South this morning.

INSKEEP: Of all yesterday's storms, the deadliest came in Alabama. And the worst of those was a tornado that approached Tuscaloosa.

MONTAGNE: It was said to be a mile wide. It moved through the city and just missed the University of Alabama.

It did not miss the neighborhood where Alexis McGraw lives.

Ms. ALEXIS MCGRAW: There was glass, it was metal all over the street. I mean the houses were - nothing was left. It was just mostly a lot of concrete foundations that were the only thing left.

INSKEEP: Of the more than 170 people killed across five Southern states, most died in Alabama.

Yasamie August of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency says that's because the storm struck urban areas.

Ms. YASAMIE AUGUST (Spokesperson, Alabama Emergency Management Agency): It hit a very dense, populated area. You know, it wasn't out in the field. Sometimes, when you see a tornado, you can kind of see it coming through an empty field or farmland. Well, this is not what we're referring to. This storm came through downtown Birmingham, downtown Tuscaloosa.

MONTAGNE: And the storm even struck the offices of emergency responders.

Ms. AUGUST: In Tuscaloosa County, the EMA office was severely damaged. All of the police cars overturned. You see people just walking up and down the street, just kind of - almost at a loss of what to do next because there is so much damage in these areas.

INSKEEP: And the damage explains why Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is urging patience.

Governor ROBERT BENTLEY (Republican, Alabama): We're going to reach out to everyone that's hurting and it's going to take days or weeks. It's not going to be a quick response, but we're going to do it as quickly as we possibly can.

MONTAGNE: The governor spoke on the ABC affiliate WBMA in Birmingham.

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