A series of tornadoes killed more than 340 people — more than 240 of them in Alabama alone — in April 2011. Superstorm Sandy killed at least 285 people in October 2012. Super Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 5,000 in the Philippines this month.

Those staggering numbers inevitably make the tornadoes that killed at least eight people in Illinois, Michigan and Indiana last weekend sound relatively minor.

But the comparatively low body counts can’t ease the grief of the fatal victims’ loved ones and friends, or replace the homes lost to nature’s fury.

The city of Washington, Ill., took an especially brutal hit last Sunday. From the Los Angeles Times:

“The tornado that pummeled Washington tracked through four counties and covered nearly 50 miles, staying on the ground for nearly an hour, the weather service said. It left an apocalyptic landscape snarled with plywood, drywall, twisted metal and remnants of ordinary lives: a bike helmet, a T-shirt, a basketball.”

Illinois officials said Thursday that more than 1,000 homes were destroyed in that small town (population 15,134, according to the 2010 Census).

The twisters also left an immense recovery task there and beyond.

But authorities say the death toll would have been much higher if not for the tornado-alert system that provided up to 16 minutes of warning.

And the Red Cross, as usual, is providing much-needed assistance to the surviving victims of natural disasters in the Midwest, the Philippines and elsewhere.

You can help, too, by donating at www.redcross.org, 1-800-RED CROSS, or contributing $10 by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999.

You can also help limit the human costs of nature’s fury by having storm plans of your own — for both hurricanes and tornadoes — and acting on them in a timely manner.