The death toll of the violent U.S. storms is now at 318 — the most from a twister outbreak since 1932.
That’s the highest rating given by the weather service for tornado damage.
The weather services said Friday the tornado hit Smithfield, Miss., at 3:44 p.m. EDT on Wednesday. It was a half-kilometre wide and was on the ground for close to five km, killing 14 and injuring 40.
The assessment is preliminary, based on photos taken Thursday and consultation with experts. It will be confirmed later this year after further inspections.
OBAMA VISITS DEVASTATION
Gas station lines, looting and the discovery of smashed heirlooms sapped survivors’ energy Friday around cities shattered by the deadliest tornado outbreak in nearly four decades.
President Barack Obama landed in devastated Alabama to console victims, while authorities worked to overcome damaged infrastructure and even a shortage of body bags in one town.
As Obama stepped off a plane at the airport in hard-hit Tuscaloosa, rescuers and survivors combed the remains of neighbourhoods pulverized by Wednesday’s outbreak.
The president’s arrival drew a muted response from Tuscaloosa resident Derek Harris, who was pushing a grocery buggy down a street where virtually every home was heavily damaged. The 47-year-old and his wife hoped to use the cart to salvage a few belongings from his home.
(Reuters) – The small town of Smithville, Mississippi may have endured the strongest tornado of the dozens that pounded the southern U.S. this week, packing such force that it hurled bodies into nearby fields, weather experts and local officials said on Friday.
While other tornadoes got more attention, Smithville is the only one of the historic wave of twisters to be rated the maximum EF5 by Friday, said Jared Guyer, a forecaster at the Storm Prediction Center, in Norman, Oklahoma.
The first tornado of that magnitude in Mississippi since March 1966, it flattened the post office, leveled businesses and sliced rooftops off homes.
“You look around and nothing is familiar anymore,” said Todd Cleary, a lifelong resident. “Our favorite shops and restaurants are gone. Who can recover from something like this?”
EF5 means that the intensity of the storm was the highest rating on the Enhanced Fujita scale used to measure tornadoes.
Smithville is in Monroe County along the Alabama border, where 14 people are confirmed dead and 14 more are reported missing. At least 33 people died in Mississippi and more than 300 across the South.