Mother Nature continues onslaught; twisters claim lives, flip rigs

| 2/7/2008

The death toll is now at 57 after the worst outbreak of tornadoes in 23 years swept through five states on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Tennessee counted 32 dead, Arkansas 13, Kentucky seven and Alabama five. The twisters touched down first in Arkansas, then made their way as far south and east as Alabama.

In Tennessee, a group of truckers heading in both directions on Interstate 40 near Jackson found themselves directly in the path of a tornado. A Struthers, Ohio, truck driver was shocked when he saw the devastation 12 hours after the tornado hit.

OOIDA member Kevin Flesher, 25, who owns K&A Trucking, was on his way to Texas with a load of pipe. He told The Vindicator newspaper in Youngstown that he saw a half-dozen tractor-trailer rigs lying mangled on the side of Interstate 40.

When the storms were hitting Tuesday night, Flesher was just crossing into Kentucky from Ohio on Interstate 71.

“The rain was coming down so hard that I couldn’t see the end of the hood,” he told The Vindicator.

Meanwhile, up to 21 inches of snow fell in parts of Wisconsin on Wednesday, with traffic backing up for almost 20 miles south of Madison when tractor-trailers got stuck on a hill on I-39/I-90. On Thursday morning traffic was still moving slowly due to hundreds of vehicles that were still blocking lanes.

And in Montana I-90 was closed Thursday morning from St. Regis to the Idaho line due to ice and snow.

More severe weather was expected Thursday in the Great Lakes region where heavy rains and melting snow prompted flood warnings in four states.

Some government researchers say weather extremes are becoming more extreme.

The Enquirer newspaper in Cincinnati, OH, interviewed Karin Gleason, a meteorologist who compiles the U.S. Climate Extremes Index maintained by the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC.

“We’re seeing an increasing trend in the frequency of extremes,” she said.

Last year was one of the 10 warmest on record. It was marked by deadly and costly wildfires that led to the largest evacuation in California history; spring storms that unleashed 600 tornadoes across the Great Plains and South; severe flooding in Texas and Oklahoma; and extreme drought across much of the Southeast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s climate center.

 – Compiled by Land Line staff
“Land Line Now” Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this report