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APRIL 2011


1st-5thAn enormous tree limb that crashed through a Georgia family's bedroom killed a father and the young son he was holding in his arms Tuesday as a fast-moving storm system pounded the South with tornadoes, hail and spectacular lightning. At least nine people were killed around the region, including several who died on roads made treacherous by downed trees and power lines. Paramedics found the 4-year-old boy, Alix Bonhomme III, wrapped in the arms of his father, Alix Bonhomme Jr., in a sight so wrenching that even grizzled rescuers wept. Miraculously, a younger son in the bedroom wasn't hurt, nor was Bonhomme's fiancee, Marcie Moorer, who was sleeping in another room. Moorer, who was still in pajamas hours later, said she still couldn't fathom what happened when the storm rumbled through Jackson, a town about 45 miles south of Atlanta. Her 3-year-old son Iysic rode his tricycle around a relative's front yard as she looked on. "I'm still in shock. It hasn't hit me yet," said a bleary-eyed Moorer, who was planning to marry Bonhomme in July.

Later in the day, she added: "I'm just happy I have Iysic. That's all I can think about." The storms were part of a system that cut a wide swath from the Mississippi River across the Southeast to Georgia and the Carolinas on Monday and early Tuesday. Drivers dodged debris during the morning commute in Atlanta, where one person was killed when a tree fell on his car. Georgia officials estimated the damage at $32 million but that it would likely climb. The National Weather Service had confirmed at least eight of the nearly two-dozen possible tornadoes it was investigating in several states, though the damage in Jackson was blamed on 60 mph winds that weren't part of a twister. The system that also knocked out power to hundreds of thousands had moved over the Atlantic Ocean by late morning. Crews were restoring power to many. In Augusta, Ga., a practice round for the Masters golf tournament was delayed by 45 minutes while workers cleaned up debris. One of Augusta National Golf Club's famed magnolia trees was destroyed by the storm. In rural south Georgia, authorities said 45-year-old Christopher McNair was found dead under debris after a mobile home in Dodge County was ripped from its foundation by a tornado. Authorities say his body was thrown about 100 yards from the trailer, and three other people in the structure were injured. A relative, Ricky McNair, described a desperate search for the man in an interview with WMAZ-TV. "Oh my God, I was hollering at the top of my voice, hoping that he could hear me and hoping that I could hear him answer me," McNair said, choking back tears. "And when I found him, I just, I just broke down." An unidentified Irwin County man was killed when a tree struck his home, according to emergency officials. And 56-year-old Ronnie Taylor, a Colquitt County road worker, was killed when he struck a large oak tree in the middle of the road as he was driving to work early Tuesday. Memphis fire officials said an 87-year-old man found dead in his home Monday was electrocuted by a downed power line. In southern Mississippi, a 21-year-old man was killed when his car struck a tree that had fallen across a road, Copiah County coroner Ellis Stuart said. The Georgia Department of Corrections said Robert Kincaid Jr., a state inmate being housed in the Colquitt County Prison, was killed Tuesday morning during storm cleanup when a tree fell on him. Elsewhere, emergency officials were thankful the storm didn't do greater damage. And it wasn't limited to the South. In Ohio at least three tornadoes were confirmed. Strong winds ripped off part of the roof of an Ashland City, TN, elementary school gymnasium, but officials said no children were injured. Seven people working at a plant in western Kentucky were injured Monday when a possible tornado hit, but dozens others were spared because they were on break at the time.  "We're fortunate not to have any serious injuries or death," Christian County Emergency Management Director Randy Graham said. In Jackson, the mayor estimated it would take weeks - or longer – to clean the wreckage. Some residents say they saw the sky turn an eerie green hue as the storm struck. Bennie Battle, Moorer's stepfather, said he remembers the sky lighting up as the worst of the weather hit. "It was just a lot of wind and lightning," said Battle, who lives down the street from Moorer. "It was like being in the middle of a laser show." Bonhomme Jr., a New York native whose accent made him stand out, worked two jobs to support his family at the Family Dollar and Little Caesars, both a short walk from their modest duplex. Friends and neighbors said he was a devoted father who was always quick to strike up a conversation.  "He was a hard-working kid and a family man," said Tray Head, a neighbor. "He was always in his yard playing with the kids. He was just about the nicest guy I ever met." Firefighters swarmed Bonhomme's house after the storm passed, trying to save the father and son. Head saw some rescuers cry after they uncovered the bodies.

"You never see them cry because they're used to seeing everything," he said. "But when they saw that, they started bawling."

Low pressure in the Mid-Atlantic brought precipitation and strong thunderstorms to the country from central Florida through Eastern Massachusetts. Heavy rain also fell in the central Appalachians. Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia both saw heavy rain throughout the day. While strong thunderstorms were reported throughout the region, no damage had been reported by late afternoon. A cold front that dropped through the northern Rockies and Plains brought some cloud cover and showers to the Rockies and Dakotas, but no significant precipitation was noted outside of the mountains where some snow fell on the peaks. In the Great Basin, showers were reported through eastern Nevada and western Utah.


10-16thJamy Garden's house began to rumble with the approach of a tornado that at one point measured three-quarters of a mile wide. Then the windows shattered, spraying her with glass. Using her cell phone as a

flashlight, she fled downstairs and called her grandmother. On Sunday, she returned home, wandering her backyard in a blood-splattered hooded sweat shirt, her right hand and left knee wrapped in gauze. Around her lay a tangle of tree branches, twisted siding, broken glass and a canoe that wasn't hers. The tornado that struck the evening before damaged more than half of Mapleton, a town of 1,200 in western Iowa, Mayor Fred Standa said Sunday. He estimated about 20 percent of the town was "almost flat."

The huge, centuries-old trees the town was named for had been pulled out

of the ground and wrapped around houses and tossed on top of cars,

Standa said. In one case, a huge motor home had been flipped on its side.

"It's not a pretty sight," Standa said. "It's something nobody has seen in this town." Garden's house survived, but everything inside was tossed around. Her two dogs were safe, but she hadn't yet found her cat.


"I don't know where our gazebo went," she said. "The garbage can right

there, that was in the front yard. The shed is gone. I don't know what

else to tell you. This is the most tumultuous thing I've ever

experienced by far." The tornado destroyed 12 to 15 blocks in the southwest corner of Mapleton when it struck about 7:20 p.m. Saturday, Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt said. The tornado destroyed about 100 homes beyond repair, and has displaced an estimated 500 to 600 residents, he said. The tornado was on the ground for three and a half miles and measured three-quarters of a mile wide at one point, according to the National Weather Service office in Valley, Neb. The twister was measured to be on the lower end of an EF3, which carries wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph. The tornado was one of several reported in Iowa. The weather service said it had confirmed a total of four smaller twisters that touched down

near Early and Nemaha, damaging several homes.  In Mapleton, the roof was blown off a high school, power lines were downed and homes and buildings were destroyed. Pratt said two people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries. The weather service said it had received reports of 14 to 16 injuries, the most severe a broken leg. Utilities also were damaged, and gas fumes filled the town, prompting officials to shut off service. Pratt said gas service will remain off for the next two weeks, but electricity should be restored in the next day or so. The smell of natural gas hung thick in the air Sunday as forklifts and pick-up trucks hauled debris down streets lined with fallen trees. Tamara Adams, 37, piled branches on the curb, next to the 30-foot-tall tree that rested on top of her house. She said she closed her outside basement door just as the tornado tore the roof off a store that sits diagonal from her house. "That sound," she said. "I'll never get it out of my head. It had a life. You could hear it breathing and growling."  Terry Siebersma, who runs a downtown liquor store with his wife, was manning his shop when he heard the tornado sirens and saw the sky turn green. In the distance, he saw the twister swirl into view. "It was almost like the movies," he said. "It was loud really loud." Siebersma, 53, said he rushed to the basement. Upstairs, he heard bottles breaking. He emerged several minutes later, and the store looked fine. He said he walked to a back storage room and discovered the roof missing and one wall on the verge of collapse. Gov. Terry Branstad issued an emergency proclamation covering Mapleton and surrounding Monana County on Saturday so the state could send services to respond to the storm, his office said. He toured Mapleton on Sunday afternoon.

Branstad said it was too early to know whether the tornado qualified for

federal aid. "Whatever state resources are needed, we're going to provide," he said. Monana County is in the same region of western Iowa where four Boy Scouts died in a tornado that struck a scouting ranch in June 2008. The National Weather Service said the tornado that hit the 1,800-acre Little Sioux Scout Ranch in the Loess Hills had an estimated wind speed of 145 mph.


24th…-30thSevere storms popped up across the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi River Valley on Monday. The system obtained energy as flow around it pulled in moisture in from the Gulf of Mexico. This produced warm and humid conditions along a front that triggered heavy showers and thunderstorms from the Great Lakes to Texas. Warmer and more humid conditions in the South allowed for these storms to turn severe. Nickel to quarter size hail was reported in Wylie and Garland, Texas, with winds estimated at 45 to 55 mph. Meanwhile, multiple trees and power lines were blown down by strong wind gusts across Arkansas and Oklahoma. The system even produced tornadoes, with multiple tornadoes spotted across Shelby county in Tennessee. Rainfall totals varied between 1 to 2 inches, with up to 3 inches in areas of severe thunderstorm activity. Coffeyville, Kansas reported a mid-day total of 3.10 inches of rain. The northern side of this system brought lighter rainfall and less intense winds to the Midwest and up the Ohio River Valley as the system extended toward the Northeast. Rainfall totals ranged around a half of an inch across the Midwest, with winds around 20 mph.


Jim G. Munley, jr.

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