The South was pounded by storms, with more 231 people killed, hundreds more injured, destroyed property, and downed trees from Mississippi to North Carolina over the past two days. According to the National Weather Service, hundreds of homes were flattened by more than 100 tornadoes.
The vast majority of fatalities occurred in Alabama, where as many as 149 people perished, although Gov. Robert Bentley told reporters Thursday there were 131 confirmed deaths.
A breakdown provided by Bentley's office showed that violent weather claimed lives in 16 Alabama counties. Thirty people perished in DeKalb County in northeastern Alabama; the death toll in the hard-hit city of Tuscaloosa, in west-central Alabama, was at 36 as of Thursday morning, said Mayor Walter Maddox.
"I don't know how anyone survived," Maddox said. "We're used to tornadoes here in Tuscaloosa. It's part of growing up. But when you look at the path of destruction that's likely 5 to 7 miles long in an area half a mile to a mile wide ... it's an amazing scene. There's parts of the city I don't recognize, and that's someone that's lived here his entire life."
Before dawn Thursday, Mississippi emergency management officials also added 14 previously unreported fatalities to the count, increasing the death toll in that state to 32, officials said. Tennessee emergency officials said 30 people died in that state. Eleven were dead in Georgia, eight in Virginia and one in Arkansas.
Entire neighborhoods were leveled and hundreds of thousands of people were without power in the affected regions. As of 4 a.m. Thursday, Alabama Power said 363,511 customers had no electricity, and as of 8 a.m. Georgia Power said 52,000 customers were without power. Bentley estimated as many as half a million to a million people had no electricity in Alabama.
"This could be one of the most devastating tornado outbreaks in the nation's history by the time it's over," CNN Meteorologist Sean Morris said.