Reuters has reported that a system of tornadoes throwing hail the size of grapefruits has left 44 people dead.  The storms began Thursday evening in Oklahoma when a twister almost wiped out the small town of Tushka, where most homes and businesses were ravaged and two elderly residents were killed. 

The storm gathered velocity and dimension Friday, giving birth to hundreds more tornadoes which rocked Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina.   The storm died in Virginia last night.

North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue said that  “It’s the most significant damage by a tornado since the early 80s.”  The New York Times has reported that three small children ages 2 to 5 sitting in a bathtub were killed in a mobile home park in Raleigh.

Despite a tornado’s elusive nature due to its innate spontaneity, erratic behavior, and a fleeting lifespan, meteorologists have concluded that:

1.  As a thunderstorm develops, colliding air masses may create a horizontal rotating effect in the lower atmosphere.

2.  The thunderstorm’s updraft pushes the spinning system to stand up vertically.

3.  A tornado develops in the wall cloud.  About 30 percent of tornadoes are considered strong, lasting 20 minutes or more and with winds up to 200 mph.

Justin Dunlow of Askewville, N.C. told Fox News that he prayed as a wall in his mobile home collapsed on him and his two young children.  “I can replace the house,” said the 23-year-old roofer. “But I can’t replace my babies. And that’s what I thought about. I’m alive. My babies are alive.”

Photo by Associated Press