Entries in EF-5 (2)


What Is an EF-5 Tornado?

Hermera Technologies/Thinkstock(NORMAN, Okla.) -- The EF-5 is a category reserved for only the fiercest and most devastating of tornadoes and it's based on what little is left rather than the force of what swept through.

James LaDue, a meteorologist at the Warning Decision Training Branch, says EF-5s are worse than hurricanes and in terms of damage potential equal the tsunami that struck Japan in March.

"It is capable of completely sweeping away one- and two-story houses, leaving nothing left but the basement itself," said LaDue. "It's also capable of turning vehicles into missiles."

According to the National Weather Service, one of the tornadoes that killed hundreds in the South was an EF-5 tornado, the first to hit Mississippi since 1966. The tornado, which hit Smithville, was a half-mile wide and packed winds of 205 miles per hour. It was on the ground for almost three miles, killing 14 and injuring 40.

The tornado that hit Smithville has been preliminarily categorized as an EF-5 based on photos, but a complete survey of the damage is required before the classification is confirmed. The tornado must of had winds of 200 miles per hour or greater for about three seconds.

"Any tornado has the potential of doing EF-5 damage, you just don't know when or where," said LaDue.

EF-5 tornadoes are extremely rare, but LaDue believes that once more of the damage is surveyed it is likely that multiple EF-5s touched down in the South during the tornado outbreak.

"The last time ... where more than one EF-5 was reported in a day was back in 1990," said LaDue. "And if we have more than two EF-5s out of this then the last time before that was probably in 1974."

The chances of surviving the most powerful tornado possible without a concrete reinforced safe room or a basement are "pretty slim" LaDue told ABC News.

"People are not trained and prepared," LaDue said. "There is very little collective knowledge or history, and certainly most people don't have a memory of what these things can do."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Death Toll Continues to Climb from Southern Storms

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(TUSCALOOSA, Ala.) -- The death toll of the southern storms continued to rise Saturday, making it one of the deadliest twister outbreaks in U.S. history.

Alabama was the hardest hit of the seven states. Approximately 1,700 people were injured by the storms in the state, according to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. The official state death toll has reached 248, according to Alabama emergency officials.

The National Weather Service categorized Wednesday afternoon's tornado in Smithville, Miss., as an EF-5, reserved for only the fiercest and most devastating of tornadoes.

Since Wednesday, storms have ravaged communities across Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Virginia, Louisiana and Tennessee. In addition to those killed in Alabama, 34 people died in Mississippi, 34 in Tennessee, 15 in Georgia, five in Virginia, two in Louisiana and one in Kentucky.

The storms have destroyed or damaged power plants, power lines, gas stations and water supplies, leaving more than one million people without electricity. Thousands are homeless or without fuel or safe drinking water. Three nuclear power plants have shut down and are offline.

President Obama and the first lady toured the disaster area Friday in hard-hit Tuscaloosa, Ala., where 36 people died.

Across the country, Americans have been donating to the relief effort, through text-message donations to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, among other charities. The New York Yankees have donated $500,000 to relief efforts

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio