Editor's note: A devastating storm system moved across the United States on Friday, spawning a slew of tornadoes that contributed to at least 28 fatalities in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
Friday's storms come days after a separate tornado outbreak that left 13 dead across Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee and battered parts of Kentucky as well.
[Updated at 11:41 p.m. ET] the death toll from Friday's storms has risen to at least 28, authorities say. The deaths were reported in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
[Updated at 6:42 p.m. ET] A second person has died in Clark County, Indiana, as a result of apparent tornadoes that swept through the area Friday, the county's emergency management director told CNN.
That brings the death toll for the state to five – two in Clark County and three in Jefferson County – according to state and county officials.
[Updated at 6:14 p.m. ET] At least four people have been killed in Indiana after powerful tornadoes swept through the state Friday, according to state and local officials. Three of the deaths are in Jefferson County and one is in Clark County.
[Updated at 4:02 p.m. ET] Between 40 to 50 homes in Hamilton County, Tennessee, have "significant damage that we know about," the county's Chief of Emergency Management Bill Tittle told CNN on Friday. He said that there are 24 reported injuries and, while none of those appear to be life-threatening, he acknowledged that "we have not reached all the homes."
[Updated at 3:01 p.m. ET] Trained weather spotters reported a tornado at 1:43 p.m. CT (2:43 p.m. ET) in Posey County, Indiana, according to the National Weather Service. It is the third tornado the weather agency has reported on Friday.
[Updated at 2:35 p.m. ET] Severe weather injured at least six people Friday and caused damage near Chattanooga, Tennessee, said Amy Maxwell, a spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Office of Emergency Management.
[Updated at 11:44 a.m. ET] At least 17,000 customers were without power Friday near Huntsville, Alabama, amid reports of a tornado or tornadoes in the area, the Madison County Emergency Management Agency said. Huntsville is in Madison County, which is in far northern Alabama.
[Updated at 11:26 a.m. ET] The National Weather Service issued a tornado emergency for Madison County, Alabama, on Friday morning after saying a large and extremely dangerous tornado caused widespread damage near Meridianville, Alabama.
[Updated at 11:20 a.m. ET] At least one apparent tornado damaged or destroyed several homes Friday morning in Limestone County, Alabama, just west of Huntsville in far northern Alabama, said Cindy Adams of the Limestone County Sheriff's Office.
Touchdowns were reported in the communities of Tanner and East Limestone, she said. One apparent tornado touched down at least once before authorities could sound a warning siren, she said.
[Initial post, 10:55 a.m. ET] An apparent tornado touched down Friday morning near Huntsville, Alabama, authorities said. Officials have reports of houses damaged in Madison County, said Paige Colburn, an emergency management official.FULL STORY
Editor's note: The following is advice from CNN Meteorologist Sean Morris on steps you can take when a tornado watch or a tornado warning is issued in your area.
A tornado watch means that tornadoes, high winds, and hail are possible in the watch area.
When a watch is issued in your area, keep abreast of the latest information by monitoring television, radio, and NOAA weather radio. A NOAA weather radio is a must, especially for storms that may occur overnight, when you may not be monitoring television or radio. Know the name of the county or parish in which you live and keep road maps handy to assist in tracking the storms.
Tornado warnings mean that a tornado has been spotted, or that radar has indicated that one exists. When a warning is issued in your area:
Editor's note: This post is part of theÂ Overheard on CNN.comÂ series, a regular featureÂ that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
A powerful, deadly, tornado-producing storm system descended on the Midwest this week. Many of our readers have been through a storm or two, and they felt compelled to share stories and advice.Â Angela Davis shared the photo above showing a damaged flag in Harrisburg, Illinois.
If you've captured photos or video of the storms, you canÂ share your story on CNN iReport, but please remember to stay safe.Â Or, share your experiences in the comments area below. Here's what some readers are telling us.
This commenter talked about helping storm victims and suggested making donations; there are other ways you can help as well.
Shay:Â "Our prayers go up for those in the path of this latest storm. Our pastors from Joplin arrived in Harrisburg this morning with a truckload of relief kits put together last night by our youth to give to residents of this devastatedÂ area. We know the pain and grief and fright you are going through. I lost a student in the May 22 tornado, one of the 161. We are former Joplin residents now living outside the city limits. My daughter works in the remaining hospital here. We live with the ruin in our town. With storm warnings the other night, residents of Joplin were reliving the terror. God bless Harrisburg, Branson, Pittsburg, Cassville; and God bless Joplin. Donate to Convoy of Hope. The Red Cross is good but more of your money donated to COHÂ goes to relief. In fact, they say $1 donated = $7 from gifts in kind. They were on the road to Joplin within one hour May 22. http://www.convoyofhope.org/"
Some shared their own previous experiences.
EvolveNow:Â "I've lived through not one, but two tornadic events. The first tore the side of the apartment building I lived in off (thankfully just after we had moved and it stood empty) and the second nearly wiped the next town off the map. Winds of over 150 mph rammed straw, solid-core wire and two-by-fours through seemingly solid objects, lifted whole buildings 10-plus feet into the air before crashing them and their occupants to the ground, and barrel-rolled cars down the road as if they were just toys. In both cases, several people died. The culprit was not God, or the winds, but flying debris and the sudden stop it makes when impacting a soft human body. A longer warning time would have allowed the people who died to get to their basements and get under or inside a small cement or steel structure already built there."
Other people talked about their ideas for improving storm safety. FULL POST
Editor's note:Â CNN's Soledad O'Brien and Rose Marie Arce traveled to Harrisburg, Illinois, Wednesday night to survey damage from the devastating EF4 tornado that killed six people there. Soledad O'Brien is live covering the devastation for CNN"s morning showÂ Starting Point.Â Here is what they saw:
Brady Street is a quaint development in Harrisburg, Illinois. A short street, full of pretty, cream-colored duplex homes. Built identically, many were just finished in November. But as the sun rises, the day after Harrisburg's deadly tornado what's clear are the scars, and the death and destruction in its wake.
The newest section of the development isÂ like a slate wiped clean. All that remains of those home are their foundations.
This is a spot where several people died. The wind pushed all the debris, and the homes, across the street and into the neighboring houses.
It's a staggering example of the strength of a tornado, and its randomness.
Editor's note: The death toll from the enormous storm system that plowed through parts of the Midwest and South stands at 13, authorities said Thursday. Hardest hit was Harrisburg, Illinois, a town thrashed by a pre-dawn EF4 killer tornado that packed 180-mph winds. Six people were killed in the southern Illinois city. Below are some of the harrowing and unbelievable stories from storm survivors:
Son: 'I saw nothing – literally. Her house is literally gone'
When the tornado ripped through Harrisburg, Darrell Osman ran toward his mother's house.
"There were red and blue lights everywhere," he said. "Other than that there was nobody else here."
He wanted to check in on his elderly mother. But when he got there, he said he was shocked by what he saw – or didn't see.
"I saw nothing – literally. Her house is literally gone, nothing there but the car that was sitting in the garage."
Luckily, he came upon a police officer while he was looking at the destruction.Â The officer told him his mother was in a nearby ambulance, and Osman was able to speak to her for a few minutes, but it would be the last time he would talk to his mother.Â His wife, Carolyn, a nurse, rode in the ambulance with her mother-in-law to a hospital badly damaged in the storm.
"She had a laceration on her head and she was in quite aÂ bitÂ of pain," Carolyn Osman said. "Every time the ambulance bounced, she cried out in pain."
At the hospital, Darrell Osman learned his mother might not make it. He called his sister, who rushed to drive over from Indiana. But Mary Osman did not survive, becoming one of six people from this town to die from the storm.
Later, Darrell's sister, Dena McDonald, said the destruction overwhelmed her as she made her way through Harrisburg.
"There really aren't any words to describe when I drove through town and saw this," McDonald said. "I thought, how terrifying. I knew by that time that more people than just my mom had perished. And so I wasn't just heartbroken for my mom, I was praying for everyone who had lost a loved one."
Darrell Osman grew emotional as he stood amid the rubble that remained of his mother's house.
"The only thing getting me through this is knowing she's in heaven," he said as tears rolled down his face.
Survivor: 'We had about two minutes to get in the bathtub'
Pat Anslinger heard the warning sirens just after 4 a.m. and rushed into action. Her first concern was protecting her mother, Thelma Wiley. The twister hit her house in Harrisburg two minutes later.
"I heard the sirens and could hear a locomotive sound coming straight at us, and I went ahead and put her in the bathtub and made her squat down, and I laid on top of her and we held on to each other in that tub," Anslinger said.
Anslinger pulled towels over her and her mother, she explained from her mother's home, which was wrecked by the tornado. Windows were shattered, and her mother's belongings were strewn through the house and frontyard.
"I had to hold onto her. I could feel all the forces pulling on my body, trying to take us out of here," Anslinger said.
Survivor: 'I noticed the walls separating from the house'
Justin Hicks and his family had little time to escape when the storm came barreling toward his Harrisburg home early Wednesday.
"When we woke up, half the roof was coming off the house," Hicks said. "We managed to get the small children in the closet, and about the time the small children were in the closet, my wife and I noticed the walls separating from the house."
Editor's note: CNN's Soledad O'Brien and Rose Marie Arce traveled to Harrisburg, Illinois, Wednesday night to survey damage from the devastating EF4 tornado that killed six people there. Soledad O'Brien is live covering the devastation for CNN"s morning show Starting Point.Â Here is what they saw:
We headed into the disaster area, driving northeast from St. Louis, where you could feel the pockets of hot and cold air buffeting each other. Early reports were that six people died in Harrisburg, Illinois, so that's where we were headed.
The storm hit Harrisburg, with winds as high as 170 miles per hour, cutting a swath through the city.Â The mayor described the path as "three or four football fields wide."
The greatest damage was in southern Harrisburg, in the southern part of the state.Â About 200 to 300 homes are estimated to be damaged or destroyed, and the Harrisburg Medical Center was also hit. The tornado tore through a wall and left several patients' room open to the elements. FULL POST
A tornado that hit an Illinois city during a storm that killed at least six people there Wednesday has preliminarily been given a rating of EF4 â€“ the second-most powerful on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, according to the National Weather Service.
A report indicated the tornado in Harrisburg, Illinois, had winds estimated at 170 mph. EF4 tornadoes have wind speeds between 166 mph and 200 mph.
The Enhanced Fujita Scale rates tornadoes by estimated wind speed, which is determined not by measurements, but by observations of the damage left behind, according to the National Weather Serviceâ€™s Storm Prediction Center.
To get the wind speed, the weather service goes to â€śdamage indicatorâ€ť tables that describe the wind speeds that would be required to do certain types of damage to certain structures. For example, if the exterior walls of one- and two-family homes collapsed, but not the interior walls, the service would consult the one- and two-family home table and find that wind speeds of about 132 mph were needed to do that.
A tornado of 132 mph would have an EF2 rating, which encompasses tornadoes between 111 mph and 135 mph.
EF0 is the weakest Enhanced Fujita rating, and EF5 is the strongest. Below is a description of the categories, with the general kinds of damage that may be associated with them.
Last night, a system of devastating storms swept through the Plains states, leaving trails of destruction in Missouri, Â Illinois and Kansas.Â Take a look atÂ some storm-related videoÂ that's come in from the region, including one of a tornado touching down in one Kansas county.
Storm chasers capture footage of a tornado touching down in Reno County, Kansas. Watch the funnel cloud form and lightning flash in this nighttime video.
â€” The small town of Harveyville, Kansas, was especially hard hit. This video shows the devastating damage that the town faces the morning after a suspected tornado struck.
Residents of Edgar Springs, Missouri react to damage in their town. See a flattened burger shop and listen to one man describe what he did when he heard a tornado coming.
The United States had a record 12 weather and climate disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damages in 2011, and that number could increase as other assessments wrap up, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday.
The countryâ€™s old record for weather and climate disasters costing at least $1 billion was nine, set in 2008.
The yearâ€™s costliest disaster so far is the April 25-28 tornado outbreak that killed 321 people in central and Southern states, including Alabama, where the Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville areas were hard hit. Losses in that outbreak have totaled $10.2 billion, according to NOAA.
Also on the 2011 list is a multimonth drought and heatwave in the southern Plains and the Southwest, which so far has caused nearly $10 billion in direct losses to crops, livestock and timber, NOAA says. The cost will rise because the drought and the year arenâ€™t finished.
Another disaster on the list is the May 22-27 Midwest/Southeast tornado outbreak, including a tornado that killed 158 people in Joplin, Missouri. That outbreak killed at least 177 people and caused damages of more than $9.1 billion, according to NOAA.
â€śIn my weather career spanning four decades, Iâ€™ve never seen a year like 2011,â€ť National Weather Service director Jack Hayes said in a video posted on NOAAâ€™s website. â€śSure, weâ€™ve had years with extreme flooding, extreme hurricanes, extreme winter snowstorms and even extreme tornado outbreaks. But I canâ€™t remember a year like this in which we experienced record-breaking extremes of nearly every conceivable type of weather.â€ť
[5:47 p.m. ET] Former Tropical Storm Lee left at least four people dead as it crossed Southern states.
In Gwinnett County, Georgia, just outside Atlanta, firefighters said Tuesday they found the body of a man who drowned in a rain-swollen creek near Norcross. He was one of two men who were trying to walk across the creek Monday "when a sudden gush of rushing water swept them over into the middle of the creek," the Gwinnett Fire Department said.
The creek was estimated to be 8 to 10 feet deep near the spillway where the two were swept away. The first man held onto the second but eventually lost his grip. He was washed downstream as well but managed to escape the water.
In Baldwin County, Alabama, police said they no longer believe a missing 16-year-old boy is alive. The teen was last seen on a beach near Gulf Shores on Sunday, said sheriff's spokesman Maj. Anthony Lowery. Lowery said Tuesday hopes of him coming to shore have faded.
A flooding death was also reported in rural northeast Mississippi, where one person drowned after floodwaters swept away a vehicle in Tishomingo County, emergency officials said.
In addition, a woman died in Chattanooga, Tennessee, early Tuesday. A woman went outside about 12:30 a.m. to move her vehicle and was struck by a tree, said police Sgt. Jerri Weary. About 30,000 people in the area were without power as of Tuesday morning, Weary said, and several roads were closed because of flooding.
As of 5 p.m. ET, the center of what remained of former Tropical Storm Lee was located about 115 miles northwest of Atlanta and was nearly stationary, the National Weather Service's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center said Tuesday.
Winds of up to 30 mph may accompany the rain.
Flooding emerged as a major concern Sunday for states hit by Irene, which hit the East Coast as a hurricane and then a tropical storm over three days.
"Many Americans are still at serious risk of power outages and flooding, which could get worse in coming days as rivers swell past their banks," President Barack Obama said Sunday, adding: "The recovery effort will last for weeks or longer."
Officials said the storm had knocked out power to more than 4 million people and was responsible for at least 20 deaths.
[Update 11:11 p.m. Sunday] Emergency officials said at least 20 people across the United States have died as a result of Hurricane Irene .
[Update 11:09 p.m. Sunday] The body of woman who apparently drowned after either falling or being swept into a storm swollen creek was recovered Sunday near New Scotland, New York State Police said. The woman's body was pulled from Onesquethaw Creek about 4:30 p.m., police said. The identity of the woman was not immediately released, though police said that a New Scotland man reported his wife missing about noon. She was last seen near the creek.
[Update 11:08 p.m. Sunday] Irene ceased being a tropical storm late Sunday as it swirled near the U.S.-Canadian border, the National Hurricane Center reported.Â Despite losing its tropical characteristics, the storm continued to kick out sustained winds of 50 mph about 50 miles north of Berlin, New Hampshire.
[Update 8:41 p.m. Sunday] More details about flooding concerns in Vermont's capital, Montpelier: Jill Remick, from the state's emergency management division, said water in the area – where multiple rivers converge – could rise as high as 20 feet, above the 17.5 feet that led to substantial flooding in May in Montpelier.
See how other states are faring in this state-by-state list of Irene developments.
[Update 8:30 p.m. Sunday] New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he erroneously reported that a firefighter died during an attempted water rescue in Princeton. He said he was provided erroneous information and apologized, saying the firefighter was in intensive care.
This lowers a count of U.S. deaths reported to be linked to Irene to at least 18 in seven states.
The largest employer in a northwest Alabama town that lost 18 residents and its business core to an EF-5 tornado will announce Monday night whether it will rebuild.
VF Corp. has been evaluating what to do at its Wrangler jeans distribution center since the April 27 storm destroyed it and killed one employee.
â€śWe appreciate everyoneâ€™s patience as we finalize our evaluation process, especially the people of Hackleburg,â€ť CEO Eric Wiseman said in a statement Friday. â€śWe look forward to informing our associates and the Hackleburg community of our decision early next week.â€ť
Since the tornado, the majority of the 150 displaced workers have been employed at company-owned locations in Hackleburg and Holly Pond.
Federal, state and local officials have conducted a full-court press, offering a range of incentives to VF Corp. The political leaders say a new Wrangler facility is a crucial component in the townâ€™s recovery.
The extreme weather events that battered the United States throughout April impressed even the nation's top weather experts.
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration special report outlines just how extraordinary the month was:
Calling the confluence of events "truly remarkable," CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano concurred with the report's authors in putting much of the blame on a phenomenon known as La NiĂ±a.
The death toll from the tornado that devastated much of Joplin, Missouri, on May 22 has risen to 153, the city said Monday.
The count includes one person who died as a result of a rare fungal infection contracted after the person was injured by the tornado, Jasper County Coroner Rob Chappel said. Two other people who died also had the infection, but in those cases, injuries from the tornado were the primary causes of death, Chappel said Monday.
Also included in the toll is Riverside police Officer Jefferson Taylor, who was struck by lightning the day after the twister. Taylor, one of the many emergency personnel from outside Joplin who assisted the city, would not have been on duty there were it not for the tornado, Chappel said.
The previous death toll, reported last week, was 151.
The tornado cut a path of destruction nearly 14 miles long - nearly 7 miles of which were in city limits - and up to 1 mile wide. The southwest Missouri city has a population of about 50,000.
More than 9,200 residents of Â Jasper and Newton counties have filed for federal assistance, the city said.
The following are the names of the 153 victims:
Ma De LourdesÂ Alverez-Torres
As tornado cleanup continues in Joplin, Missouri, graphic artists in St. Louis are lending their talents to the effort.
The marketing and design firm Moosylvania is selling original prints that its art directors designed that pay homage to Joplin. The prints are $25 each and can be viewed and purchased here through PayPal. All proceeds benefit the United Way Small Business Fund, said Brook Boyer, who came up with the idea for the campaign.
Her family is from Joplin.
"I wanted to do something, and I asked our art directors if they would help," she said. "They all jumped in. I was so touched by how hard they worked on this. I'm really proud that we could do our small part to help."
The artwork has been available online for a week, and 200 prints have been sold.
To contact the United Way and find out how to help Joplin tornado survivors, visit their website.
Imagine a column of trash the size of a football field reaching more than a mile into the sky. That's how much debris the deadly tornadoes that struck Alabama in April left behind, according to estimates.
The 64 twisters left more than 10 million cubic yards of smashed homes, buildings, vehicles and trees in the state, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Cleanup crews have removed more than 4.3 million cubic yards of debris from the storms, which killed 238 people, FEMA says.
The Army Corps of Engineers is coordinating debris removal. The corps is encouraging people to sort debris into categories as much as possible so materials can be handled properly and some recycled.
Crews either burn or chip trees and shrubs; construction debris is hauled to licensed landfills; and hazardous materials are taken to facilities designed to handle them.
[9:32 p.m. ET] At least four people have been killed in the tornadoes that struck western Massachusetts on Wednesday, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said.
[8:25 p.m. ET] Severe storms - including tornadoes - have left behind "many injuries" and extensive damage in western and central Massachusetts on Wednesday, Gov. Deval Patrick said.
Patrick also said he's received a report one person has died as as result of the storms. He said he has declared a state of emergency for Massachusetts and called up 1,000 National Guard members, who will be asked to help with cleanup and search-and-rescue operations.
"It's been particularly devastating in downtown Springfield," he said.
Patrick said he was asking school superintendents in affected communities to cancel Thursday classes so that rescue and recovery personnel could concentrate on cleanup.
The National Weather Service has said it received three reports of tornadoes in Massachusetts on Wednesday: at least one near Springfield; one near Palmer; and one near Sturbridge and Oxford.
Sandra Ahearn, a spokeswoman for the Western Massachusetts Electric Co., said 12,000 customers were without power in the utility's service area and that hard-hit areas might not have electricity until the end of the week.
[7:50 p.m. ET]Â Trained weather spotters reported a tornado near Sturbridge, Massachusetts, at 7:25 p.m. ET, bringing to at least three the number of tornadoes that have been reported in the state Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.
By 7:35 p.m., the suspected tornado was located near Oxford, Massachusetts, moving east at 30 mph.
[6:53 p.m. ET] Local law enforcement reported a tornado caused widespread damage near Palmer, Massachusetts, about 14Â miles northeast of Springfield. The tornado was moving east at 35 mph, the National Weather Service said.
[4:51 p.m. ET] Witnesses reported a tornado near downtown Springfield, Massachusetts, on Wednesday as heavy thunderstorms swept through western Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.
Police and amateur radio operators said tornadoes were spotted in a Springfield neighborhood and within a half-mile of downtown, according to a warning put out by the Weather Service. No confirmation of damage or injuries was immediately known, however.
Springfield is about 90 miles west of Boston.
Three things you need to know today.
Hurricane season: The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season begins Wednesday with forecasters expecting an above-average year for named storms in the Atlantic basin, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.
During the season, which ends November 30, NOAA is predicting there will be 12 to 18 named storms. Storms are named when they reach tropical-storm status with winds of 39 mph or higher.
Of those storms, forecasters are predicting six to 10 will reach hurricane status, with winds of 74 mph or higher.
Three to six of the hurricane could become major hurricanes, with winds in excess of 110 mph.
"The United States was fortunate last year. Winds steered most of the season's tropical storms and all hurricanes away from our coastlines. However, we can't count on luck to get us through this season. We need to be prepared, especially with this above-normal outlook," NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco said last month.
Arlene will be the name of the season's first storm to reach sustained winds of 39 mph, followed by Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily and Franklin. See the full list here.
Editor's note: CNN producer Matthew Hoye shares his personal thoughts on covering the devastating tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri.
In the past month, I've covered two of the worst tornadoes to hit the U.S. in decades.
The devastation and heartbreak in Tuscaloosa and Joplin are truly indescribable. I met so many people who, I think, could not process what had happened. I watched them climb through rubble in the unrecognizable landscape, searching for something familiar among shredded clothing, soaked and mildewy photos and smashed electronics. What looked like garbage to me was a keepsake to them. A torn family picture, a hand-me-down table or a random cell phone with pictures of the neighborhood were scattered among the miles and miles of twisted metal. There were brief smiles as mementos of the life that had been there just yesterday were found.
Jim Richards found his wife's immigration green card a couple of houses away from his previous home and, amazingly, his iPad buried under an overturned Jeep. He laughed as he told me the iPad cover was destroyed, but the iPad, with all his family photos, e-mails and contacts, worked just fine.