In what meteorologists said was not typical for this time of year, severe storms brought at least 25 tornadoes to the South and Midwest overnight, killing two and injuring more than 200.
Tom Kines, a senior meteorologist for Accuweather, said the twisters were on the “unusual side” for the month of January.
“It reminds me more of a springtime situation,” he told ABC News today of the system that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes.
Though tornadoes touched down in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee early this morning, the worst damage was reported in Alabama, where Bobby Sims, 86, of Alliance, and Christina Heichelneck, 16, of Clay, were killed.
Meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said today that an EF-3 tornado had struck Clay with wind speeds of about 150 mph.
Winds, which extended as far as Illinois and Kentucky, and hail the size of golf balls mangled giant trees, flattened neighborhoods and destroyed buildings.
Andrea Johnson said God was watching over here as she escaped her bedroom and got to a safe place. Her daughter and granddaughter drove hours in the dark to make sure she was safe.
“What I love and cherish — my home — is gone,” Johnson told ABC News today. “It’s gone.”
Around 3:30 a.m. today, Stevie Sanders woke up and hid with her family in the laundry room of their home.
“You could feel the walls shaking and you could hear a loud crash,” she told The Associated Press. “After that it got quiet and the tree had fallen through my sister’s roof.”
After the storm had passed, her father, Greg Sanders, raked the roof and removed pieces of lumber.
“It could have been so much worse,” he said. “It’s like they say, ‘We were just blessed.’”
Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency in Alabama today.
In April 2011, a massive storm that included an EF-5 tornado — considered the most devastating of twisters — hit the South. Alabama was the hardest hit. Nearly 250 people were killed and 1,700 people were injured in the state, according to Bentley.
“It was an experience for me,” W.R. Tidwell told ABC News today. “I don’t want to go trhough it again. I have a heart for what those people went through in Tuscaloosa. This here is bad.”