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,

NBC News and news services
updated 4/29/2011 6:57:51 PM ET 2011-04-29T22:57:51

The tornadoes struck with unexpected speed, and the difference between life and death was hard to fathom. Below are some of the many stories of survival and loss.

---

In Brooks, Ga., a mobile home was picked up and disintegrated as it was tossed almost the length of a football field.

Inside was Charlie Green, a man partially paralyzed by a stroke five years ago, and caretaker Jamie White, a mother of three. Both were killed.

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White, 22, was "a T-shirt and jeans girl" who loved horseback riding, being outside and spending time with her three young sons: Andrew, 6; Austin, 5; and Anthony, 1.

Her mother Kimberly Hilton had worked as a caregiver for Green for the last two and a half years and helped her daughter get a job working for him about eight months ago. White worked the night shift and her mother relieved her in the mornings.

"I wish it had been me," Hilton said, choking up. "I've lived the majority of my life, but she's got three little ones who will never know how wonderful she was unless we keep telling them."

Green turned 55 earlier this month. He was a plumber from the age of 14 or 15 until he hurt his knee on the job about five years ago and needed knee replacement surgery. During recovery he had a serious stroke and never fully healed.

He was a loner, but was "a marshmallow inside," his mother Janice Green said.

"It was almost like he didn't want anyone to know they could get to him and make him care," she said.

His half-brother, Kirk Green, said the family was trying to set up a fund for White's children.

"She did her job to the end," he said. "Our family feels great sorrow for her because she had three young kids and she was so young and hadn't lived much life."

---

In Apison, Tenn., Ken Carter's first instinct when a tornado began plowing toward his home was to flee. He tried the door handle but it wouldn't budge because of built-up pressure.

Image: Ken Carter
Erik Schelzig  /  AP
Ken Carter, 74, salvages belongings from his home on Thursday in Apison, Tenn.

The 74-year-old retired asphalt superintendent gave the door another jerk when something dropped from the ceiling, knocking him to the ground and cutting a 4-inch gash into his head.

"I got back up and got hold of the door handle, and about that time the whole wall just went and opened to the outside and took me with it," he said as he salvaged belongings from his flattened home on Thursday. "A split second was all it took."

Carter's house was among dozens of severely damaged or destroyed homes on the outskirts of Chattanooga, where officials said eight people were killed.

Marvin Quinn and his wife of 57 years, Willie, also had a survivor's tale as they looked at the damage to their home, which lost its roof.

Deadliest days

The couple was reading Bible verses to each other when one of their children called to see if they were aware of the storm about to bear down on them. The call was cut off when the power went out.

"I looked up at the kitchen window, and there was big flash of lightning and I could see the wind was just blowing in all directions, just crazy," the wife said.

Next she said she heard a rumble, like the freight trains that run on the tracks behind their house.

"I said, 'Let's get down and pray, the tornado's coming,'" she said. "And he got down on his knees, and I was bent over and put my hand over his head while we were praying."

---

In Rainsville, Ala., these are busy days for the local funeral home. Lisa Chandler and her husband have been working almost every waking hour to prepare for five visitations scheduled Friday night for storm victims.

They live above the funeral home on the edge of downtown in Rainsville, a city about 100 miles northeast of Birmingham where 32 people were killed.

They're doing all their work to prepare the bodies using one generator. The work is tougher than usual because the victims were battered by the storms.

But funerals shouldn't be delayed just because it could be a week or more before power is restored.

"People want that bit of closure now," she said.

Friends are pitching in, trying to find gas to keep the generator going and to make sure the hearse is ready to pick up another body or head to the cemetery in the next few days. They haven't had to stop to get a meal, as people keep bringing food by.

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

---

In Hackleburg, Ala., David Smith, 70, used a garden rake Friday to sift through several inches of insulation and other debris in his kitchen while his grandson, 10-year-old Bryton Frost, looked on.

Image: David Smith
Rogelio V. Solis  /  AP
David Smith of Hackleburg, Ala., rakes through some of the insulation Friday as he searches for his watch in what remains of his kitchen.
Frost's school was out the day the storm hit so the two spent the day together. Frost rode an all-terrain vehicle while "Papaw," an electrician, worked on the conveyor belt at a chicken house in the area.

Frost went home with his mother about an hour before the storm hit.

Smith, a widower, climbed under a pool table in the lower floor of his brick home just moments before the tornado that destroyed the town pried the roof and walls off his house.

Debris flew through the home, cutting him in several places.

"I'm a heart patient so I'm on blood thinner. I bled like a stuck hog," he said.

And then the wind stopped. Smith sought help before making his way to his daughter's home, which wasn't damaged.

"When he came over to our house, he looked pretty rough," Bryton said. "He took a shower and he looked a whole lot better."

Smith said he may not try to rebuild. He'll stay with his daughter for now. He's been working on a shop for his boat in the Bear Creek community and planned to build an apartment or playroom for the children on the second floor.

"Now I guess I'll just live there for the rest of my life."

---

In Barnesville, Ga., teacher Victoria Mattox, 29, was asleep when a friend texted her at 12:42 a.m. Thursday telling her the sirens were going off in town. She leapt from bed and made it to her closet just in time.

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Seconds later she could feel her house shaking under battering winds. Windows popped out in the adjoining bedroom and then the ceiling peeled off above her head.

Within seconds, it was over and the closet where she had hunkered down was the only part of the house left standing, a large tree uprooted and arched over it. As she sorted through wreckage Thursday with the help of her parents, who drove down from near Knoxville, Tenn., and friends, she got emotional.

"I had called my father, and I just told him I loved him and I was going to die because I didn't think I was going to make it," she said, tears welling up in her eyes.

---

In Jefferson County, Ala., David Newton, a deputy  sheriff said he nearly died.

"It was a nightmare. We hunkered down in a bathroom and saw it rising over our house," he said. "It looked like a big cloud with fast moving debris. The next thing you know it was on top of us."

Image: David Newton
Wynter Byrd  /  AP
David and Sharon Newton stand amid the ruins of their home in Concord, Ala.
He clutched the bathroom's heater vent, his wife clinging to his arm, holding on for their lives.

"If I didn't hold on, I would have gone away with the storm," he said.

Even weather forecasters had to hunker down.

---

In Smithville, Miss., mobile home park dwellers flocked to the Baptist church for shelter.

They went into sturdy section of the church where they hung onto one another and anything they could grab onto as the building began crumbling away, Pastor Wes White said.

Image: Wes White
Rogelio V. Solis  /  AP
Smithville Baptist Church pastor Wes White finds a lighter moment as he talks to a church member while standing amid the remains of his office in Smithville, Miss., on Thursday.
A red Jeep was pushed on its side inside the church office and the second story was gone. Walls collapsed. But he immediately noticed that something was untouched.

"Our choir robes are OK," the pastor shouted. "They're perfectly white."

The Associated Press and NBC News 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:
    Butch Dill / AP
    Slideshow (89) Severe storms rip across U.S. - Tornadoes

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

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