— From staff, wire reports
The deaths of two DeKalb County residents not long after the April 27 tornado outbreak have now been attributed to the storms, bringing the state’s death toll that day to 243.
Yasamie August with the state Emergency Management Agency said the deaths were caused by issues after the storms and not the storms themselves.
Eddie Joe Bobbitt, 71, of Rainsville, died after falling down steps after storms knocked out his electricity. Carol Lisa Fox, 50, of Rainsville died after losing her electricity in the storm and had no refrigerated insulin to control her diabetes.
Dave Nadler with the National Weather Service in Huntsville said scientists at his office will record the deaths as related to but not caused by the EF5 tornado that ripped through 106 miles of Alabama — including Limestone County — at about 4 p.m. April 27. One of the tornadoes that struck DeKalb was upgraded in June to an EF5, the second to hit the state that day. A third EF5 in Smithville, Miss., passed into Alabama but had slowed to EF4-speed winds by that time.
Weather Service researchers typically report all data related to a tornado — including time of occurrence, its strength, the number of buildings hit and the number of deaths. The information helps scientists better understand how storms impact people but in the case of April 27, when 62 tornadoes hit the state and as many as 200 hit seven Southern states, collecting verifiable data is difficult, Nadler said.
While many of the storms have been surveyed and data included on NWS reports at http://www.srh.noaa.gov/hun, the number of deaths connected with each tornado has not been officially tallied. The difficulty lies in the number of storms that occurred all during the day and the fact that many storm paths overlapped. Then this data must be compared and combined with the Birmingham NWS total to get state totals.
Nadler said the four fatalities in Limestone County, as well as nine deaths in Madison, 14 in Lawrence and 26 in Franklin were caused by a single long-track, mile-wide EF5 twister with 210-mph winds.
However, the two fatalities in Cullman County occurred at differing times of the day — one in the morning and one in afternoon — which means they were caused by two different tornadoes.
“We’re doing our best to sift through all the information,” Nadler said. “We’re working on final storm data for the entire month of April. One of the last things we do is the fatalities and financial losses.”
NWS scientists rely on data from each county’s EMA to calculate fatalities and losses, he said.
The number of deaths reported in Limestone and other counties noted in this article are: Cullman, two; DeKalb, 35; Franklin, 26; Lawrence, 14; Limestone, four; and Madison, nine.