I grew up in Oklahoma, right in tornado alley. We didn’t have a basement or a cellar so when the sirens blew we would get in the car and drive through the wind, often us kids still in our pajamas, to the church basement. When we didn’t have time, we’d hide under our parents’ bed. I remember vividly looking out their window and seeing a funnel bearing down. I’ve seen a lot of massive wreckage. Few things are as scary or as awe-inspiring as a tornado. But I never went through anything like what happened on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, with among the worst tornado outbreaks in history:
At least 290 people were killed across six states — more than two-thirds of them in Alabama, where large cities bore the half-mile-wide scars the twisters left behind.
The death toll from Wednesday’s storms 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 in Norman, Okla.