The video: Dozens of southern towns were reeling on Thursday from one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history. At least 263 people have been reported dead — in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and Georgia — after at least 160 twisters barreled through the region. So far, 180 fatalities have been reported in Alabama alone. Particularly hard hit was the small city of Tuscaloosa, which saw a voracious, F5 category twister kill at least 36 people. Christian England, a University of Alabama employee, shot a dramatic video — punctuated by his understandably heavy breathing — from the vantage point of the school's basketball complex. And in a live local news feed, a weatherman, shocked by the funnel cloud's size, exclaims, "my God, look at that thing — it's huge." (See both videos below.)
The reaction: The power of these tornadoes is "all too terrifyingly clear," says Mark Memmott at NPR. And the sound of England's panicked breathing is "chilling." Interviewed by CBS' The Early Show, England elaborated on his tornado experience. "My boss and I went up to the third floor," he said. "It was just amazing. I mean, we just couldn't believe what we were seeing." Indeed, says Alabama meteorologist Dan Satterfield at American Geophysical Union, "never, in 32 years forecasting, have I seen as many violent tornadoes indicated on radar at one time." Watch the monster tornado: