Out of the wreckage of the storms, tales of grief and survival.
Roy Butts lowered his voice and described how his kin next door had found 8-year-old Chloie Gunter wandering in her yard in the darkness about half past midnight, and her telling them, “Mama blew away.”
Ellen S. Gunter, 63, and Paul Howard Gunter, 73, were found dead amid debris in their backyard at 437 Grove St. on a few-acres-wide spread where two other homes -- both obliterated -- belong to other family members.
Jerry Irby and others spent hours digging trapped Henry family members from the debris of the home in the Snell community near Enterprise, Mississippi. Irby had to fire up his bulldozer to push aside downed trees to allow ambulances access to the area.
In the Deep South, known to meteorologists as “Dixie Alley,” people heard it all this week. Reports were everywhere of a “tornado emergency” — a level of urgency higher than a warning, declared in some places hours before destruction arrived.
Yet even in this era of weather alerts beamed into cellphones, the death toll in Alabama and at least five other states climbed Thursday to at least 297 — by far the highest of any U.S. tornado event since 1974.
Kevin Mainor saw the tornado coming.
It was about 20 yards away, coming through the woods toward his Judson Bulloch Road home next to Mountain View Elementary School in Warm Springs, Georgia. “It looked like a big cloud coming,” he said. “I had enough time to run from the door to my kids. That’s all I had.”