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Storms, Tornadoes Leave Dozens Dead in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee

Death toll rises across four states, including at least 53 reported in Alabama.

ByABC News
April 27, 2011, 12:16 AM

April 27, 2011— -- Thunderstorms, severe winds and tornadoes slammed the South Wednesday, killing dozens of people in four states.

The numbers of known dead in Alabama rose rapidly this evening. At least 58 were killed in the state Wednesday, The Associated Press reported after 11 p.m. ET.

The toll came soon after ABC News Birmingham, Ala., affiliate WBMA, also known as "33/40," reported at least 53 people dead, which was not long after Alabama emergency officials told ABC News at least 40 had died.

"There are more out there to be confirmed because search and rescue is underway in a number the counties," Alabama Emergency Management Agency information manager Yasamie August said. "However, there are still storm systems moving through the county, as we speak."

In addition, at least 11 were dead in Mississippi, ABC News confirmed.

The Associated Press reported two deaths in Georgia and one in Tennessee Wednesday, plus one person killed by the same storm Tuesday in Arkansas.

Mayor Walter Maddox reported 15 dead Wednesday in Tuscaloosa, Ala., a city of approximately 180,000 flattened by an estimated mile-wide tornado.

"I'm in my car at corner on McFarland. Milo's Hamburgers isn't there anymore," Tuscaloosa resident Phil Owen told WBMA. "Hobby Lobby [is the] only thing still standing at Woods Square Shopping Center. Big Lots, Full Moon Barbecue -- piles of garbage where those places were."

Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama.

"We have way over 100 injuries throughout the city of Tuscaloosa," Mayor Maddox said. "We have hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed and hundreds more damaged."

President Obama declared a state of emergency for the search and rescue response in Alabama, and Gov. Robert Bentley told WBMA he expected him to declare another one to help pay for the cleanup.

"It's very difficult to see this," Bentley told WBMA of the damage.

In confirming the state of emergency, President Obama said federal officials had their eye on the storms and would help as needed.

"Michelle and I extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives because of the tornadoes that have swept through Alabama and the southeastern United States," he said in a written statement. "Our hearts go out to all those who have been affected by this devastation, and we commend the heroic efforts of those who have been working tirelessly to respond to this disaster."

As the known death toll rose this evening, forecasters warned people to brace for even worse weather.

"Today is the day you want to be careful," Greg Carbin of the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma told The Associated Press.

The weather system was expected to move into Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky by the night and into the Carolinas by Thursday morning.

For the areas already hit, the latest deadly storm was an all-day affair on top of about a dozen deaths from rough weather in the region over previous days.

"The storm came in early this morning even before daybreak and a number of destruction and damage was done during that time," said August, the Alabama emergency official, Wednesday evening. "And then we knew it would likely come back through. We didn't know the extent of the damage.

"We are opening shelters throughout the state to make sure folks who have nowhere to go tonight will have somewhere to go out of the weather," August said.