After Tornadoes, a Small Town Tries to Find Everyone

Confusion abounds in Hackleburg, Alabama
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2011 12:37 PM CDT
This May 3, 2011 photo shows destruction at the Wrangler Plant in Hackleburg, Ala. Ala.   (AP Photo/The Birmingham News, Joe Songer)
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(Newser) – In Hackleburg, Ala., everybody knows everybody. But the small town of 1,576 was so devastated by last Wednesday's tornadoes it's having trouble accounting for everyone, the New York Times reports. “One of our friends we thought was dead, we saw at a truck stop,” says one resident. “He thought we were dead, too.” The tornadoes left bodies in ponds and destroyed buildings in their wake; power outages and limited cell phone coverage are also adding to the confusion. “I heard someone say it’s like God came and stomped on it,” says a local writer.

The county's death toll was 35 a few days ago, but has dropped to 23. One investigator blames a paperwork error, but the town's police chief has a more grim explanation. “We were finding body parts, and we were logging them as people," he says, before putting the parts together to identify an entire person. Six are still listed as missing. As communication remains difficult, many have learned of deaths by listening to the local radio station's "In Memoriam" segment. Traditionally, local funeral services are read twice during a 15-minute segment. These days, they are read once, but the segment lasts for 20 minutes.

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