Video: Tornado terror: 'We just started crying'

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 4/29/2011 12:47:18 AM ET 2011-04-29T04:47:18

Survivors and rescuers combed through destroyed towns and neighborhoods on Thursday, looking for belongings and victims after dozens of tornadoes ripped through the South overnight.

The death toll continued to climb in Alabama, and at least 298 people in six states perished in the deadliest outbreak in nearly 40 years.

Deadliest days

People in hard-hit Alabama, where at least 210 deaths occurred, walked through flattened, debris-strewn neighborhoods and told of pulling bodies from rubble after the storms passed.

"We have neighborhoods that have been basically removed from the map," Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox said after surveying his city.

President Barack Obama on Thursday signed a disaster declaration for Alabama to help residents clean up the devastation. The declaration, which covers eight counties, means federal aid will be available to those who seek it.

Obama was planning to visit Alabama on Friday. "We will stand with you as you rebuild," he said in a message to victims from the White House.

The death toll seems out of a bygone era — before Doppler radar and pinpoint satellite forecasts were around to warn communities of severe weather. Residents were told the tornadoes were coming up to 24 minutes ahead of time, but they were just too wide, too powerful and too locked onto populated areas to avoid a horrifying body count.

"These were the most intense super-cell thunderstorms that I think anybody who was out there forecasting has ever seen," said meteorologist Greg Carbin at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

"If you experienced a direct hit from one of these, you'd have to be in a reinforced room, storm shelter or underground" to survive, Carbin said.

The storms seemed to hug the interstate highways as they barreled along like runaway trucks, obliterating neighborhoods or even entire towns from Red Bay to Bristol, Va. One family rode out the disaster in the basement of a funeral home, another by huddling in a tanning bed.

Several of the twisters were several times more severe than a typical tornado, which is hundreds of yards wide, has winds around 100 mph and stays on the ground for a few miles, said meteorologist Harold Brooks at the Storm Prediction Center.

"There's a pretty good chance some of these were a mile wide, on the ground for tens of miles and had wind speeds over 200 mph," he said.

Trying to count the tornadoes
The center received more than 170 tornado reports around the region, but some tornadoes were probably reported multiple times and it could take days to get a final count.

Video: Tragedy in Tuscaloosa: 'Nothing...will fix this' (on this page)

Brooks said 50 to 60 reports — from the Mississippi-Alabama line, through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham and into Georgia and southwestern Tennessee — might end up being a single tornado. If that's true its path would be one of the longest on record for a twister, rivaling a 1925 tornado that raged for 219 miles.

"It happened so fast it was unbelievable," said Jerry Stewart, a 63-year-old retired firefighter who was picking through the remains of his son's home in Pleasant Grove, a suburb of Birmingham. "They said the storm was in Tuscaloosa and it would be here in 15 minutes. And before I knew it, it was here."

He and his wife, along with their daughter and two grandchildren, survived by hiding under their front porch. Friends who did the same weren't so lucky — Stewart said he pulled out the bodies of two neighbors whose home was ripped off its foundation.

Samantha Nail surveyed the damage in the blue-collar subdivision of Pleasant Grove where hers was the only home still intact. The storm slammed heavy pickup trucks into ditches and obliterated tidy brick houses, leaving behind a mess of mattresses, electronics and children's toys scattered across a grassy plain where dozens used to live.

"We were in the bathroom holding on to each other and holding on to dear life," Nail said. "If it wasn't for our concrete walls, our home would be gone like the rest of them."

Video: Tornado rips through heart of Georgia town

The death toll in Alabama stood at 210 as of Thursday night, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency said.

With as many as one million people without power in Alabama, Gov. Robert Bentley said 2,000 National Guard troops had been activated and were helping to search devastated areas for people still missing.

The National Weather Service and forecasters did a good job of alerting people, he added, but there was only so much that could be done to deal with tornadoes a mile wide.

"You cannot prepare against an F5," the most powerful category on a scale for measuring wind intensity, Bentley said.

Image: Overnight tornadoes leaves part of Pratt City, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, in ruins
Marvin Gentry  /  Reuters
Overnight tornadoes left part of Pratt City, a suburb of Birmingham, Ala., in ruins.

Five other southern states reported deaths as well: 33 in Tennessee, 33 in Mississippi, 14 in Georgia, five in Virginia and one in Kentucky. Virginia officials lowered the death toll there, which earlier was listed as eight.

The fierce storm system spread destruction from Texas to New York, where dozens of roads were flooded or washed out. The governors of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia each issued emergency declarations for parts of their states.

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The severe weather was continuing Thursday. The National Weather Service was issuing short-lived tornado warnings — advising people to "take cover now" — as the twisters formed.

By early Thursday, these had been sent out for parts of New York, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

New Jersey saw heavy rain and high winds before the storm blew out to sea.

In New York, a flash flood warning was in effect for a much of the greater metropolitan area — including Manhattan — through this evening.

Slamming Tuscaloosa
One of the hardest-hit areas was Tuscaloosa, a city of more than 83,000 and home to the University of Alabama. At least 36 people died there as a mile-wide twister tore through.

Video taken at the university showed a massive funnel cloud , flinging huge pieces of debris through the air.

"When I looked back, I just saw trees and stuff coming by," said Mike Whitt, a resident intern at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa, who ran from the hospital's parking deck when the wind started swirling and he heard a roar.

On Thursday morning, he walked through the neighborhood next to the hospital, home to a mix of students and others, looking at dozens of homes without roofs. Household items were scattered all over the ground — a drum, running shoes, insulation, towels and a shampoo bottle. Streets were impassable, the pavement strewn with trees, pieces of houses and cars with their windows blown out.

Dr. David Hinson was working at the hospital when the tornado hit. He and his wife had to walk several blocks to get to their house, which was destroyed. Several houses down, he helped pull three students from the rubble. One was dead and two were badly injured. He and others used pieces of debris as makeshift stretchers to carry them to an ambulance.

"We just did the best we could to get them out and get them stabilized and get them to help," he said. "I don't know what happened to them."

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The hospital had seen 600 storm victims through Thursday morning, and 100 had to be admitted.

Because the city's emergency management building was destroyed, authorities are using Bryant-Denny Stadium at the University of Alabama as a command post.

Around Tuscaloosa, traffic was snarled by downed trees and power lines, and some drivers abandoned their cars in medians.

University officials said there didn't appear to be significant damage on campus, and dozens of students and locals were staying at a 125-bed shelter in the campus recreation center.

The university canceled students' final exams and postponed commencement ceremonies for graduating students.

Alabama also saw the shutdown of a nuclear power plant that lost power in the storms . The Browns Ferry nuclear power plant, one of the biggest in the country, will be down for days and possibly weeks but the backup power systems worked as designed to prevent a partial meltdown like the disaster in Japan.

Death in Mississippi
In Kemper County, Miss., sisters Florrie Green and Maxine McDonald, and their sister-in-law Johnnie Green, all died in a mobile home that was destroyed by a storm.

"They were thrown into those pines over there," Mary Green, Johnnie Green's daughter-in-law, said, pointing to a wooded area. "They had to go look for their bodies."

In Smithville, Miss., at least 13 people died as devastating winds ripped open the police station, post office, city hall and an industrial park with several furniture factories. Pieces of tin were twined high around the legs of a blue water tower, and the Piggly Wiggly grocery store was gutted.

"It's like the town is just gone," said Jessica Monaghan, wiping away tears as she toted 9-month-old son Slade Scott. The baby's father, Tupelo firefighter Tyler Scott, was at work when the warning came on the TV.

"It said be ready in 10 minutes, but about that time, it was there," Monaghan said. She, Slade and the family's cat survived by hiding in a closet.

Video: Mississippi survivors: 'Our lives are ... shattered' (on this page)

At Smithville Cemetery, even the dead were not spared: Tombstones dating to the 1800s, including some of Civil War soldiers, lay broken on the ground. Brothers Kenny and Paul Long dragged their youngest brother's headstone back to its proper place.

Unlike many neighboring towns, Kenny Long said, Smithville had no storm shelter.

"You have warnings," Long said, "but where do you go?"

Some fled to the sturdy center section of Smithville Baptist Church. Pastor Wes White said they clung to each other and anything they could reach, a single "mass of humanity" as the building disintegrated around them.

The second story is gone, the walls collapsed, but no one there was seriously hurt. The choir robes remained in place, perfectly white.

The storms came on the heels of another system that killed 10 people in Arkansas and one in Mississippi earlier this week. Less than two weeks earlier, a smaller batch of twisters raced through Alabama, touching off warning sirens, damaging businesses and downing power lines in Tuscaloosa, but there were no deaths there then.

The Associated Press, Reuters, NBC News and msnbc.com contributed to this report.

Map: Tornado tracker

Map shows real-time reports of tornadoes, high winds and hail from May 22 through May 25 from the National Weather Service.

  1. Above: Map Tornado tracker
  2. Interactive 2011 tornado season

Photos: Record flooding

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  1. City surveyor Tony Moon works on a makeshift levee on the edge of the flooding Mississippi River with the temporarily shuttered Isle of Capri riverboat casino behind him, Friday, May 20 in Natchez, Miss. The river was forecast to crest at 62.1 feet, the highest level in Natchez recorded history. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Haley English, 7, cries into the arms of her mother, Naomi English, as she looks toward her submerged house in Vicksburg, Miss., on May 20. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A precautionary sign warning of flooding is almost covered by Mississippi River floodwaters along the road to LeTourneau Technologies, in Vicksburg, Miss., on May 20. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Workers build a 16-foot makeshift levee to protect the 100-year-old JM Jones Lumber Company on the edge of the flooding Mississippi River on May 20 in Natchez, Miss. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A sand berm didn't help this home in Vicksburg, Miss., on May 19. (Dave Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A corrections officer motors through floodwaters to pick up prisoners helping sandbag against the flooding in Vidalia, La., on May 19. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Floodwaters from the Yazoo River creep across crops near Yazoo City, Miss., on May 19. The Yazoo backed up because of Mississippi River flooding. (Dave Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Guy and Diane Creekmore check out their flooded home on May 18 in Vicksburg, Miss. The Creekmores take daily trips out to see the damage to their home, which is currently filled with about 4 feet of floodwater. They also feed the possums and a raccoon that have been stranded on the roof of their home. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A member of the Army Corps of Engineers looks over sandbags along the rising Mississippi River in Natchez, Miss., on Wednesday, May 18. Cargo was slowly moving along the bloated Mississippi River after a costly daylong standstill. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Floodwaters from the Mississippi River closed Highway 61 north of Natchez, Miss., on May 17. (Dave Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Louisiana Army National Guard Sgt. Michael Leehy inspects new makeshift levee modifications on May 17 in Morgan City. The Morganza Spillway floodgates were opened for the first time in nearly forty years and have succussfully lowered the crest of the flooding Mississippi River, but towns like Morgan City expect to get hit by some of the diverted water. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Tanya Acosta moves sandbags around her home on May 17 in Stephensville, La. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Farmers work as floodwaters from the Mississippi River creep across their fields in Natchez, Miss., on May 17. Heavy flooding from Mississippi tributaries has displaced more than 4,000 in the state, about half of them upstream from Natchez in the Vicksburg area. (Dave Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Louisiana National Guard troops set up baskets to hold in sand above a levee in Krotz Springs on May 17. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. April Bordelon helps her brother Justin Reech move a load of belongings from his home in Big Bend, La., into a community known as Canadaville, in Simmesport, La., on May 16. The community was formerly used by Hurricane Katrina evacuees. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A street sign stands in the rising water of the Atchafalaya River in Simmesport, La., on May 16. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Brenda Hynum hugs her daughter Debra Emery as they watch floodwaters rise around Emery's mobile home in Vicksburg, Miss., on May 16. A sand berm around the trailer failed in the night and floodwaters from the rising Mississippi river rushed in. "We tried so hard to stop it. It goes from anger to utter disbelief that this could happen. I just want to go home," Emery said. (Dave Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A woman in Stephensville, La., ties sandbags on May 15 as people throughout the region race to protect their homes from rising floodwaters due to the opening of the Morganza Spillway. (Sean Gardner / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Giant whirlpools the size of cars develop along the Atchafalaya River on May 15 due to the opening of the Morganza Spillway. Deputies warned people to get out as Mississippi River water gushing from floodgates for the first time in four decades crept ever closer to communities in Louisiana Cajun country. (P.C. Piazza / The Lafayette Daily Advertiser via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Brittany Pearce, left, wipes her eyes while taking a break with Leanna Gresco after a long day of throwing sandbags in front of Pearce's grandparents' house in Stephensville, La. on, May 15. (Sean Gardner / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. National Guardsman Spec. Lionel Lefleur stands guard on top of a levee checking vehicles trying to enter town, May 15, in Butte LaRose, La. The National Guard was trying to allow only residents trying to evacuate their homes into the town. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Brittany Ryder, 11, looks on as family members clear out their house during a mandatory evacuation, May 15, in Melville, La. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Houseboats are secured to a tree on the Atchafalaya River, May 15, in Henderson, La. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Mary Williams, right, looks on as family members pack the contents of her home, where she has lived since 1948, during a mandatory evacuation order, May 15, in Krotz Springs, La. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Arionne Ruffin, 7, pushes her cousin Josh Ruffin, 3, in a toy car while Alexis Rhodes, 8, plays in front of her family's home, May 15, in Bayou Black, La. The Rhodes, who have sandbagged around their home, purchased the house in February and are anxious about the impending flooding. (Julia Rendleman / The Houma Courier via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Water diverted from the Mississippi River spills through a bay in the Morganza Spillway in Morganza, La., May 14. Water from the inflated Mississippi River gushed through a floodgate Saturday for the first time in nearly four decades and headed toward thousands of homes and farmland in the Cajun countryside, threatening to slowly submerge the land under water up to 25 feet deep. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Inmates move sandbags for the construction of temporary levees in Butte LaRose, La., May 14. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Clothes are seen bagged in anticipation of floods in Butte LaRose, La., May 14. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Flood waters from the Mississippi River pour over a levee on the Yazoo River, a tributary to the Mississippi River, north of Vicksburg, Miss., May 13. Thousands of residents who live along or near the river from Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana have been forced to evacuate, and thousands of acres of prime farmland have been covered by the record-setting rising waters. (Chris Todd / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Flood waters of the Mississippi River threaten a large oil refinery complex in Baton Rouge, La., May 13. (Chris Todd / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. City workers transport sandbags past the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Station on May 12, in Vicksburg, Miss. The historic station is near the Mississippi River but the rest of downtown is on a bluff above. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Residents of Vicksburg, Miss., take advantage of the raised railroad tracks north of the city to fish in the Mississippi River flood waters late Thursday, May 12. The fishermen along the tracks were treated to the sight of a 10-foot long alligator swimming in the waters. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Mobile homes sit in water as high as their rooftops near Watkins, Tenn., May 10. (Mike Brown / The Commercial Appeal via Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Workers look for minor imperfections to correct before pinning down high density polyethylene covering on the backside of the Yazoo Backwater Levee in Vicksburg on May 10. The cover will act as a barrier if overtopping occurs and will inhibit backside erosion of the levee. (Sean Gardner / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Friends and family help build a sandbag wall around a home in Stephensville, La., on May 11. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Frank Rankin stands in front of his flooded home in Vicksburg, Miss. on May 11. (Sean Gardner / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. The Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn., as seen on April 21, 2010 in the satellite image on the left, and during it's crest on May 10, 2011, at right. The river reached 47.8 feet, just under the record of 48.7 feet set in 1937. Mud Island river park can be seen in the upper right corner. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Melvina Jones carries a mirror through floodwaters as the swelling Mississippi River begins to surround her sister's home in Vicksburg, Miss. on Tuesday, May 10. (Sean Gardner / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. This industrial facility was flooded by the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn., on May 10. The river earlier that day crested in Memphis just short of its 1937 record. (Dan Anderson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Chaperone Dave Weber and West Delaware High School Seniors Scott Egemo and Drew Funke lift flood debris below the damaged Lake Delhi dam near Delhi, Iowa, on May 4. (Becky Malewitz / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Byron Sitz looks at Mississippi River floodwater covering the intersection of Riverside Drive and Beale Street in Memphis on May 10. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Water swamps a casino flooded by the Mississippi River in Tunica, Miss., on May 10. (Dan Anderson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Jermaine Jarrett surveys a flooded street in his neighborhood in Memphis, Tenn., on May 9. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Floodwaters rise at the end of Beale Street in Memphis, May 9. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Floodwater is seen inside Peaches Bar on May 9 in Memphis. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. A towboat pushes barges down the flood-swollen Mississippi River south of Memphis, May 9. (Danny Johnston / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Water covers a gravestone, May 9, in Luxora Ark. The town sits along the Mississippi River where the water level is currently higher than the level of the town causing the ground to be saturated and leaving nowhere for the water in the town to drain. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. (Left) Workers use a crane to remove some of the Bonnet Carre Spillway's barriers in Norco, La. on May 9 in anticipation of rising floodwater. The spillway, which the Corps built about 30 miles upriver from New Orleans in response to the great flood of 1927, was last opened during the spring 2008. Monday marked the 10th time it has been opened since the structure was completed in 1931. The spillway diverts water from the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain.

    (Right) The Bonnet Spillway as seen from the air. (Gerald Herbert and Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. A cell block is seen alongside an inner levee along the Mississippi River at Angola State Prison in West Feliciana Parish, La. on May 9. A convoy of buses and vans transferred inmates with medical problems from Angola, which is bordered on three sides by the Mississippi River. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. A man takes a picture of a flooded mobile home park as floodwaters slowly rise in Memphis, Tenn., May 8. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. Linda Casals leans over the Interstate 55 bridge crossing the Mississippi River to get a better look at flooding Sunday, May 8, in Memphis, Tenn. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. Kimberly Nailor pauses to wipe her forehead while using sandbags to protect a home as floodwaters slowly rise in Memphis, Tenn., May 8. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. Residents paddle a boat past houses being swallowed up by floodwater on Saturday, May 7, in Memphis, Tenn. Heavy rains have left the ground saturated, rivers swollen, and have caused widespread flooding in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. Volunteers fill sandbags to help in the fight against rising floodwater on May 7 in Memphis. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. Jonathan White and Leandra Felton wade through slowly rising floodwaters with items from their home May 7 in Memphis, Tenn. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. Reggie Smith wears a sandbag on his head in an effort to keep dry in a steady rain as he works to fill sandbags outside the RiverTown condominiums on May 7 on Mud Island in Memphis, Tenn. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. Jerry Brooks wades through his yard on May 6 in Bogota, Tenn. Heavy rains have left the ground saturated, rivers swollen, and have caused widespread flooding in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. John Wade and Jose Peralta use a boat to haul sandbags to build a levee around Wade's home on May 5 in Metropolis, Ill. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. Farmland is flooded by the White River near Des Arc, Ark., on May 5. (Danny Johnston / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. James Dunn gives his grandson Caleb Walker a paddle boat ride down the middle of a flooded street near his home on May 5 in Metropolis. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. Mississippi wildlife agent Hugh Johnson walks past a dead whitetail buck in Greenville, Miss., on May 5. Johnson said herds of deer, coyotes, some wild hogs and other wildlife are swimming to Greenville because of flooding on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River. This deer broke its neck when it tried to run through a chain fence. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. James Strayhorn carries groceries through a flooded neighborhood back to his home in Tiptonville, Tenn. on May 4. Heavy rains have left the ground saturated and have caused widespread flooding in Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky and Arkansas. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. Robert Hart, left, helps Oma Gardner remove furniture from her flooded home on May 4 in Tiptonville, Tenn. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. Sally Nance walks through floodwater as she helps her neighbors remove clothes from their home on May 4 in Tiptonville, Tenn. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. Rita Gieselman leads the way as Phil Vanover follows after checking on his home in the 100 block of Chestnut Street in Rumsey, Ky. on May 4. (John Dunham / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  66. Debbie Ricketts, left, and her Point Township, Ind., neighbors, Bill, center, and Hank Cox basked in the sun on their old grain bin cement foundation that they dubbed "Gilligan's Island," on the afternoon of May 4. (Denny Simmons / The Evansville Courier & Press via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  67. Volunteers fill sandbags at the Pyramid Arena to prepare for rising floodwaters from the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn. on May 4. The National Weather Service is predicting a 48-foot crest of the Mississippi River on May 11. (Lance Murphey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  68. Homes on Mud Island that are usually high above the water level are met by the rising waters of the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn. on May 4. (Lance Murphey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  69. David Lucas, left, and Lauren Lucas, right, comfort Carla Jenkins, owner of Vidalia Dock and Storage Co., after deciding to evacuate her business in Vidalia, La. on May 3 due to the threat of the predicted Mississippi River flood. (Eric J. Shelton / The Natchez Democrat via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  70. Floodwater engulfs a home near Wyatt, Mo., on May 3, after the Army Corps of Engineers blew a massive hole in a levee at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to divert water from the town of Cairo, Illinois. The diversion flooded about 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland and 100 homes. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  71. Roy Presson embraces his daughters Catherine and Amanda as they stand on the edge of State Highway HH looking out at their family farm in Wyatt, Mo., on Tuesday. The Presson home and 2,400 acres of land that they farmed was flooded by an engineered levee break. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  72. Floodwater surrounds homes in Morehouse, Mo., on Tuesday. Heavy rains have left the ground saturated, rivers swollen, and has caused widespread flooding in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Arkansas. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  73. Tractors pump floodwaters over a levee in Tiptonville, Tenn., on Tuesday in a bid to divert some water. (Erik Schelzig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  74. Daniel Davis stands in his kitchen in Livermore, Ky., on Tuesday after the Green River sent floodwater rushing in. (John Dunham / Messenger-Inquirer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  75. Floodwater from the Mississippi River is seen north of New Madrid, Mo., on Tuesday. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  76. An explosion lights up the night sky as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blows an 11,000-foot hole in the Birds Point levee in Mississippi County, Mo. on Monday. The breach lowered the flood levels at Cairo, Illinois, and other communities. (David Carson / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  77. James Bindon waits for more loads of sand to be delivered to the riverfront in Vidalia, La., on May 9. Crews planned to use the sand to fill temporary levees in preparation for the predicted Mississippi River flood. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  78. Volunteers hastily build a wall of sandbags along Illinois 3 on May 8 in the community of Olive Branch. (Alan Rogers / The Southern Illinoisan via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  79. Anna Mayhood leaped to safety from her vehicle after the Broad Street Bridge collapsed beneath it on April 27 in Moriah, N.Y. Authorities said flooding closed nearly 60 roads across the Adirondacks, most of them in Essex County, scene of some of the worst damage. (Lohr Mckinstry / The Press Republican via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  80. Kenny Back pulls a boat with his sister Jessica Capp and wife Theresa Back to collect belongings from their parents' flooded home on April 27 in Old Shawneetown, Illinois. (Stephen Rickerl / The Southern via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  81. Volunteers place sandbags atop a temporary levee to fight back floodwaters as lightning from a thunderstorm is seen in the background on April 26, in Dutchtown, Mo. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  82. Four houses are surrounded by floodwaters from the Current River just outside Doniphan, Mo., on April 26. The area received several inches of rain in previous days. (Paul Davis / Daily American Republic via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  83. A rail service vehicle and a pickup sit stranded in floodwaters from the Black River south of Poplar Bluff, Mo., on April 25. (Paul Davis / Daily American Republic via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  84. Residents of Oak Glen Residential Community are assisted by rescue personnel as rising waters from a nearby creek forced them to evacuate their homes in Johnson, Ark., on April 25. (Beth Hall / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  85. Volunteers stack sandbags in Metropolis, Ill., on April 25 to curb Ohio River flooding. (Alan Rogers / The Southern Illinoisan via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  86. A truck stalls in high waters in Paris, Texas, on April 25. (Sam Craft / The Paris News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  87. Leon Gentry looks out over floodwaters that surround his garage after he spent the morning working to secure what he could from the rising water in Henderson, Ky., on April 25. (Mike Lawrence / The Gleaner via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  88. Kim Mada loads equipment into a truck to avoid rising water at Falcon Floats in Tahlequah, Okla., on April 25. (Matt Barnard / Tulsa World via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  89. Butler County, Mo., Sheriff Mark Dobbs stands on a levee along the Black River, right, on April 25, where floodwaters were running over into adjacent farmland southeast of Poplar Bluff. The levee broke in this location during a 2008 flood. (Paul Davis / Daily American Republic via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  90. Kasey Medley, right, stands on the front porch of her flooded home with her friend Erica Cass in Poplar Bluff, Mo., on April 26. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
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  1. Image: Rising Rivers And Tributaries Continue To Flood Southern Communities
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    Above: Slideshow (90) Severe storms rip across U.S. - Record flooding
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    Slideshow (89) Severe storms rip across U.S. - Tornadoes

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