Inside the Alabama tornado disaster zone contributor G. Wayne Whaley is based in Alabama. He offers the following on-the-scene update from the storm-ravaged state. Despite the widespread destruction and communication challenges, Whaley says his market studies should resume by next week.

In case you were not aware, I reside in Huntsville, Ala., a city in North Alabama referred to as the Tennessee Valley, an area which was hit with a series of tornados on Wednesday. There are more than 300 known fatalities in the state and the number grows with each report as many are still unaccounted for. Other than the temporary inconvenience of functioning without electricity, all of my family, friends and associates appear to have escaped unscathed.

I have migrated 100 miles south to stay with family. The Utility Company authorities are predicting Huntsville will have power again early next week, but observing the damage on my drive Friday, their task appears daunting. I drove three hours Friday on what is normally a two-hour trip as all traffic lights were down for the first 50 miles and each intersection was being treated as a fourway stop. The handful of gas stations functioning off generators had lines of cars 200 deep. Grocery stores are letting people in five at a time to wander through the stores with flashlights. All indications were that most people, who had somewhere else they could stay, had left or were leaving.

It was an eye-opening drive Friday. There were beautiful historic homes and property I have admired all my life obliterated. There is a section of homes on the water where I grew up that looks like it has been run over with a bulldozer. Reports indicate a 70-mile stretch of property near the University of Alabama has been wiped off the face of the earth and the Universtiy has appropriately cancelled the last two weeks of the spring semester.

Although we are besieged with TV footage of disasters around the globe on an almost daily basis, as many of you are aware, it is a much different scene when witnessed in person. Thousands of hours of cable news coverage can't prepare you for the sight of families and their neighbors on their all fours digging through the rubble of their former home in search of belongings. I saw hundreds of majestic trees sucked out of the ground with root systems 30 feet wide amazingly still intact and some homes have practically disappeared, which as hard as we may try not to, leaves one with no choice but to ponder the fate of those children who might have been misfortunate enough to have been inside at the time. If you have seen the News coverage, it is real and is a visual which will be difficult to erase.

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