Video: Surveying Alabama's tornado-ravaged landscape

  1. Closed captioning of: Surveying Alabama's tornado-ravaged landscape

    >>> and good evening from a ravaged tuscaloosa, alabama , tonight. the center of an epic tornado outbreak . the worst since the depression era in this country, and now a tragedy spread over seven states. beyond the pictures of the damage, like the scene behind us we can show you, we have found perhaps a better way to show you how massive this tornado was. a satellite picture from space, when you look closely, you can see in brown the path the funnel carved in the earth from the lower left to the upper right and right through where we're standing now. the image is remarkable, and so is this, the fact that you can now see downtown tuscaloosa from suburbs like the one we're in now, and that hasn't been possible in some places since about the 1860s . sadly, it's only possible now because the vegetation and the buildings are gone across about a half-mile-wide band. we have a huge team on the ground here throughout this region to cover this story. headed by lester holt , who is here with us tonight. lester, good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening to you. officially, they're still searching for survivors, but the fact of the matter is at this point, there's growing anxiety for those who remain unaccounted for. since tuesday, there have been reports of 232 tornadoes across seven states. those storms have killed at least 328 people. across alabama , the sounds of heavy equipment at work could barely mask the sounds of grief.

    >> homes just leveled. piles of rubble.

    >> reporter: from the air over alabama , it's a clear, almost surgical path of destruction . from the ground, where president obama met survivors today, a nightmarish landscape.

    >> i have never seen destruction like this.

    >> cadaver dogs sniffed out the dead in alabama , which bore the most fay ttalities at 220.

    >> we worked all night, trying to get people out of the houses. that's about all we could do.

    >> reporter: tennessee and mississippi each reported more than 30 dead. the trail of death extends as far north as virginia. national guard troops have been deployed across the region. places used to tornadoes, but not like these. hugging the ground for long distances. some churning for up to 200 miles per hour. for more than a day, sandra roberts couldn't find her mother who lived alone in this small house. that was a tough 24 hours wasn't it?

    >> yes, sir.

    >> reporter: what was it like when you finally heard from her?

    >> tears of joy.

    >> reporter: today, they were reunited at the home of a friend who took her in, jeanette barnes recalled her harrowing ordeal.

    >> they dug me out of a hole through the back. i just thank the lord that somebody came and got me.

    >> reporter: in tennessee today, people waited for hours for gas because so many gas stations have been without power. officials now say fewer than 400,000 customers in stricken areas are still in the dark though many no longer have homes, they are determined to move forward and celebrate what they do have.

    >> i'm just so blessed to be here. thank you!

    >> reporter: the high death toll even mow shocking when you consider the storm that came through this neighborhood. there was about a 24-minute warning for residents, but as one expert forecaster pointed out, 24 minutes is enough time to hunker down, but not enough time to leave the area particularly with the tornado the size of the one that came through here.

    >> that's absolutely right, thus the stories and the scenes we're here covering. lester holt heading up the coverage here tonight,

msnbc.com news services
updated 4/30/2011 2:11:27 AM ET 2011-04-30T06:11:27

Authorities say the fatality toll from the devastating tornadoes across the South has climbed to 337, making it the second-deadliest day for a twister outbreak in U.S. history.

The largest death toll ever was on March 18, 1925, when 747 people were killed in storms that raged through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

Alabama was in the path of the most destruction this time with at least 246 deaths. Authorities on Saturday raised the total number of confirmed dead in several states to 337.

The second deadliest day had been in March 1932, when 332 people died, all in Alabama.

The 1925 outbreak was long before Doppler radar could warn communities of severe weather. Forecasters say residents were warned, but the twisters were too powerful to avoid the horrifying body count.

On Friday President Barack Obama toured some of the destroyed neighborhoods and met with devastated residents.

"I've never seen devastation like this," Obama said after touring the Tuscaloosa area. "It is heartbreaking."

Tuscaloosa saw at least 42 deaths. "We are bringing in the cadaver dogs today," said Heather McCollum, an assistant to Tuscaloosa's mayor.

Visible from Air Force One as Obama neared Tuscaloosa: a wide, angry scar across the land where the tornado had gouged its path.

And as the president moved by motorcade through communities and business districts, suddenly the devastation was everywhere: flattened buildings, snapped trees and heaps of rubble, twisted metal and overturned cars as far as the eye could see.

First lady Michelle Obama was at the president's side as he offered condolences.

Late Thursday, the president signed a disaster declaration for Alabama to provide federal aid to those who seek it.

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The president's visit drew a muted response from Tuscaloosa resident Derek Harris, who was pushing a grocery buggy down a street where virtually every home was heavily damaged. The 47-year-old and his wife hoped to use the cart to salvage a few belongings from his home.

"Hopefully he'll give us some money to start over," Harris said of Obama. "Is FEMA here? The only place I'm hearing anything is at the Red Cross center."

Some were more upbeat about the president's visit, including 21-year-old Turner Woods, who watched Obama's motorcade pass on its way to tour damaged areas. "It's just really special having the president come here," she said. "It will bring more attention to this disaster and help get more help here."

Body bag shortage in one town
The situation was dire about 90 miles to the north in the demolished town of Hackleburg, Ala., where officials were keeping bodies in a refrigerated truck amid a body bag shortage. At least 27 are dead there, and searches for the missing continue.

The only grocery store, the fire and police departments and the school are destroyed. There's no power, communications, water or other services. Fire Chief Steve Hood said he desperately wants scores of flashlights because he doesn't want people using candles due to the fire hazard.

"We don't have water to put out any fires," he said.

Video: In hard-hit Tuscaloosa, survivors take stock (on this page)

People have looted a demolished Wrangler jeans plant, and authorities locked up drugs from a destroyed pharmacy in a bank vault, said Stanley Webb, chief agent in the county's drug task force.

"If people steal, we are not playing around. They will go to jail," he said.

Deadliest days

About three hours to the west, parts of Rainsville were also flattened. At Rainsville Funeral Home, Lisa Chandler and her husband have been working 6 a.m. to midnight to arrange services and prepare bodies.

The work is tough because they know most of the victims. But the couple keeps at it — they have five visitations planned for Friday night.

"How am I handling it?" Lisa Chandler said. "I cry a little and I pray a lot."

Just outside of town, residents picked through their scattered belongings on a road, with people in cars stopping to offer bread, water and crackers. An AM radio station transmitted offers of help. One store was giving away air mattresses. An Italian restaurant was serving free hot meals. A glass shop was offering to replace shattered windows for free.

Firefighter Jamie Armstrong blinked back tears as he recalled finding a 5-year-old girl lifeless in a field near Rainsville, far from any house. Her brother was alive, but Armstrong wasn't sure if he was going to make it.

Despite the devastation, he said the storm had strengthened his belief in God.

"The truth is, God could take any one of us right now. But he spared me and you," he said.

Video: Hungry to help, volunteers swarm South (on this page)

With 238 deaths confirmed by late Friday, Alabama bore the brunt of the devastation. Other state death tolls so far: Tennessee (34), Mississippi (34), Georgia (15), Virginia (5), Louisiana (2), and Kentucky (1). Some 1,700 people were injured in Alabama alone.

The deadliest outbreak prior to this week's was in March 1932, when 332 people died. Most of those dead were also in Alabama. With the increase Friday, the death toll surpassed that of a 1974 outbreak, when 310 people died.

The National Weather Service estimated that there were 211 tornadoes on Wednesday and Thursday, the largest outbreak ever recorded. The previous record in one event occurred from April 3-4, 1974, with 148 tornadoes, the agency said.

The powerful tornadoes combined with storms to cut a swath of destruction heading west to east. It was the worst U.S. natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which killed up to 1,800 people.

Video: Tornado survivor: ‘Roof just came off’

The high death toll seems surprising in the era of Doppler radar and precise satellite forecasts. But the storms were just too wide and too powerful.

"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.

As many as a million homes and businesses there were without power, and 2,000 National Guard troops were activated to help in Alabama. The governors of Mississippi and Georgia also issued emergency declarations for parts of their states.

In Birmingham, Police Chief A.C. Roper said rescue workers sifted through rubble "hand to hand" on Thursday to pull people from destroyed homes.

"We even rescued two babies, one that was trapped in a crib when the house fell down on top of the baby," Roper said on PBS NewsHour.

The storms seemed to hone in on populated areas by hugging the interstate highways and obliterating neighborhoods and even entire towns from Tuscaloosa to Bristol, Va.

Concord, a small town outside Birmingham, was so devastated that authorities closed it down to keep out rubberneckers.

Randy Guyton's family, which lived in a large home at the base of a hill, rushed to the basement garage, piled into his pickup truck and listened to the roar as the twister devoured the house in seconds. Afterward, they saw outside through the shards of their home and scrambled out.

"The whole house caved in on top of that car," he said. "Other than my boy screaming to the Lord to save us, being in that car is what saved us."

Given the apparent destruction, insurance experts were wary of estimating damage costs, but believed they would run into the billions of dollars.

Some of the worst damage was in Tuscaloosa, a city of more than 83,000 that is home to the University of Alabama.

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Police used bullhorns to tell people not to cross the tape to a neighborhood they were searching. On the other side, people were walking over glass, through pools of water, endless piles of debris and smashed cars. The city imposed a 10 p.m. curfew for Thursday and an 8 p.m. limit for Friday.

In Phil Campbell, a town of 1,000 in northwest Alabama where 26 people died, the grocery store, gas stations and medical clinic were destroyed by a tornado that Mayor Jerry Mays estimated was a half-mile wide and traveled some 20 miles.

"We've lost everything. Let's just say it like it is," Mays said. "I'm afraid we might have some suicides because of this."

Officials said at least 13 died in Smithville, Miss., where devastating winds ripped open the police station, post office, city hall and an industrial park with several furniture factories.

Bodies were found in fields and away from homes, indicating victims had either been outside when the storm came or got carried away by the wind, said Monroe County Sheriff Andy Hood.

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.

At least eight people were killed in Georgia's Catoosa County, including in Ringgold, where a suspected tornado flattened about a dozen buildings.

In Mississippi: ‘Our whole town is just gone’

"It happened so fast I couldn't think at all," said Tom Rose, an Illinois truck driver whose vehicle was blown off the road at I-75 North in Ringgold, near the Tennessee line.

Lisa Rice, owner of S&L Tans in nearby Trenton, survived by climbing into a tanning bed with her two daughters: Stormy, 19, and Sky, 21.

"We got in it and closed it on top of us," Rice said. "Sky said, 'We're going to die.' But, I said, 'No, just pray. Just pray, just pray, just pray.'"

For 30 seconds, wind rushed around the bed and debris flew as wind tore off the roof.

"Then it just stopped. It got real quiet. We waited a few minutes and then opened up the bed and we saw daylight," she said.

The difference between life and death was hard to fathom. Four people died in Bledsoe County, Tenn., but Mayor Bobby Collier also had good news to report after a twister swept through.

"There was a modular home that was actually picked up and thrown across the road," Collier said. "The family was in it. It was totally destroyed."

And the family?

"They were OK."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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
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  1. Image: Rising Rivers And Tributaries Continue To Flood Southern Communities
    Mario Tama / Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (90) Severe storms rip across U.S. - Record flooding
  2. Image:
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    Slideshow (89) Severe storms rip across U.S. - Tornadoes

Interactive: 2011 tornado season

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

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