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Death toll rises as storms pound east

Hundreds of homes destroyed in waves of severe weather

JACKSON, MS (UPI) | April 28, 2011

Multiple days of violent storms wove a destructive path across the southern United States, leaving scores dead in five states, officials said.

The severe weather continued its march across the country Thursday with tornado watches and warnings posted in central Maryland and southeastern Pennsylvania. Flash flood warnings were also posted across the Mid-Atlantic through Friday.

Devastating storms Wednesday spawned a deadly tornado killed at least 128 people in Alabama alone, officials said.

Mississippi officials said 18 people died because of violent weather that belted the state Tuesday into Wednesday, while 11 people were reported dead in Georgia, CNN reported Thursday. Officials in Arkansas and Tennessee reported at least one death in each state.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared four northwestern counties disaster areas after storms and tornadoes blew through the area. Governors of Mississippi and Alabama also declared disaster areas, emergency management officials said.

In Alabama, the National Guard dispatched hundreds of personnel to some of the state's hardest hit areas.

President Barack Obama announced late Wednesday he approved Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's request for emergency federal assistance, including search and rescue support.

"While we may not know the extent of the damage for days, we will continue to monitor these severe storms across the country and stand ready to continue to help the people of Alabama and all citizens affected by these storms," Obama said in a statement.

At least one strong tornado swept through Tuscaloosa, Ala., obliterating dozens of roads and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses.

A storm system that brought severe weather to parts of the Southern Plains earlier this week before pushing east encountered a cold front that moved across the Deep South and the upper levels of the atmosphere that made conditions ripe for severe storms, CNN said.

In Mississippi, residents braced for flooding along the Mississippi River.

In addition to the human toll across the South, the storms destroyed property, shut down highways and left tens of thousands of customers without power.

In Alabama, the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant shut down after losing off-site power, CNN reported. Although power was restored, the plant remained offline late Wednesday, officials said.

Most of the 154 tornado sightings reported to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., were from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee, AccuWeather.com reported. The actual number of tornadoes that touched down likely will be lower since numerous tornadoes were on the ground for great lengths of time, leading to multiple sightings, meteorologists said.

National Weather Service storm survey crews will investigate the destruction before finalizing the tally of tornadoes from Wednesday.

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