By the government’s preliminary count, 11 tornadoes — including one that killed 15 people in Arkansas — struck the nation’s midsection on Sunday, and at least 25 ravaged the South on Monday, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center said.
Among those killed was 21-year-old University of Alabama swimmer and dean’s list student John Servati, who was taking shelter in the basement of a Tuscaloosa home when a retaining wall collapsed on him.
His death — and that of at least two others in Alabama — came the day after the third anniversary of an outbreak of more than 60 tornadoes that killed more than 250 people across the state.
In Kimberly, Ala., north of Birmingham, the firehouse was among the buildings heavily damaged.
Four firefighters suffered little more than cuts and scrapes, but the bays over the fire trucks were destroyed, and the vehicles were covered with red bricks, concrete blocks and pieces of the roof.
The trucks were essentially trapped, so the town had to rely on nearby communities for emergency help.
Louisville was also one of the hardest-hit areas, with officials reporting at least nine dead in and around town because of a powerful tornado with a preliminary rating of EF4, just shy of the top of the scale.
Sennaphie Yates arrived at the small local hospital to check on her grandfather just ahead of the twister. As the funnel cloud closed in, staff members herded people into a hall.
“They had all of us against the wall and gave us pillows. They said, ‘Get down and ... don’t get up,’” she said.
The winds knocked down two walls and tore holes in the roof. Doctors moved some emergency room patients to a former operating room and sent some to other hospitals.
Bennett’s day care center was not far from the hospital. Her niece Tanisha Lockett had worked at Ruth’s Child Care since it opened seven years ago.