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    George H.W. Bush was President of the United States. Power ballads such as "When I See You Smile" by Bad English were topping the charts. Jerome Walton of the Chicago Cubs won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. And, not surprisingly, there was severe weather in Alabama.
    

    Severe thunderstorm approaching Highway 69 in Hale County, Alabama, 11/8/89
    The morning of Wednesday November 8, 1989 an F1 tornado struck the northeast side of Dothan in Houston County, Alabama. During the afternoon of November 8, severe reports were confined to a few wind damage reports in West Alabama, but it happened to be a day I remember for a few reasons. My first "storm chasing" experiences were in the 1980s and most of them are not documented. This is not the first, but one of the first I was able to document on video. 

    
    From NOAA Storm Data, November 1989

    In these videos you will hear audio of the Birmingham NWS NOAA Weather Radio (with real human voices) and audio of James Spann, Scott Richards, and Janet Hall who were broadcasting the evening news on WBRC 6.  I was listening to them on 87.7 FM.  Channel 6 was the only station in the Birmingham market which had audio fall within the FM radio band. This disappeared when Channel 6 went digital in June 2009. 

    Here are the videos:





    Thanks for reading and watching!

    Mike

    Follow me:

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    Eighty three tornadoes were confirmed by National Weather Service offices in 17 states, mostly east of the Mississippi River between November 9 and November 11, 2002.  Most of the tornadoes occurred on the 10th in the Southeast and Ohio Valley regions.  Twelve of the tornadoes were responsible for 36 deaths.  Thirteen deaths occurred in Tennessee and 12 in Alabama. The most intense tornado was the F4 in Van Wert, Ohio which was responsible for four fatalities.  This ranks as the third largest November tornado outbreak.

    Alabama Tornadoes:

    
    Map of 11/10/02 Tornadoes in Alabama via NWS Birmingham

    8:40 p.m. Infrared Satellite Image 11/10/02 during Saragossa F3, NWS Bmx
    
    The National Weather Service Birmingham has a page with storm surveys of 10 tornadoes in Alabama.  The most devastating tornadoes in Alabama were the Carbon Hill (F3) and Saragossa (F3) tornadoes.

    Carbon Hill F3 Tornado
    The Carbon Hill tornado was travelled 44.3 miles with a width of 1175 yards. According to the NWS Birmingham, "four deaths were reported with this tornado, three in the Rose Hill community area of Walker County and one near Arley in Winston County, with approximately 38 injuries associated with this tornado, 3 in Fayette County, 20 in Walker County, and 15 in Winston County."

    The video below contains coverage from meteorologists in the Huntsville television market, even though the tornado was mostly south of the Huntsville market. All three stations, WHNT, WAAY, and WAFF were all following it closely.  As of this time the Weather Service Office in Huntsville was not issuing warnings. The NWS Birmingham still had warning responsibility for all of North Alabama.




    The video below is coverage from an ABC 33/40 special on severe weather in 2005. In this video, the Carbon Hill tornado and Saragossa tornado from the "Veterans Day Outbreak" in Alabama are discussed. Reporters include James Spann, Pam Huff, Valorie Carter, Brian Peters, Ike Pigott, John Oldshue, Linda Mays, and Chris Tatum.



    Saragossa F3 Tornado

    According to the NWS Birmingham: "The Saragossa Tornado was the fourth tornado to occur in Alabama and the longest track of the severe weather episode. It began in Fayette County, just east of the Sipsey River about 6 miles north-northeast of the city of Fayette at 8:15 pm...The tornado crossed into Walker County at 8:34 pm...The tornado appeared to be at its most intense during the travel from US 78/SR 118 interchange across Saragossa and the areas near SR 5 and SR 195. Seven deaths occurred in this 10 mile stretch of the tornado track, along with an estimated 40 injuries."

    This is coverage of the most deadly and longest track tornado in Alabama during the Veterans Day Outbreak, 11/10/2002. James Spann, Mark Prater, John Oldshue and J.B. Elliott covered this tornado which moved through Fayette, Walker, Winston and Cullman counties. This video included coverage from 8:30-9:09 p.m.



    Finally, meteorologists Ben Smith and Dr. Tim Coleman of Channel 42 in Birmingham describe the F2 tornado that moved through Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties.

    From the NWS Birmingham: "The Abernant Tornado touched down in a wooded area west of County Road 99 around 10:22 pm. The tornado traveled east-northeast, damaging structures on Ridge Road before crossing into Jefferson County. The tornado entered Jefferson County at 10:29 pm, and damaged structures in the Johns and Sumter areas before damaging a manufacturing facility just southwest of VisionLand Theme Park. The tornado crossed Interstate 65 and US Highway 11 where additional houses and businesses were affected. The tornado ended at this point at 10:43 pm. This F2 tornado had a path length of 15.2 miles, 2.9 miles in Tuscaloosa County and 12.3 miles in Jefferson County. The path width was about 450 yards. Three injuries were reported in Tuscaloosa County.



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    Photo by Michael E. Palmer, Tuscaloosa News
    Michael Harris carries an unconscious Whitney Crowder, 6, through the Bear Creek Trailer Park, 12/16/2000
    Saturday morning December 16, 2000 was a pleasant and warmer than average mid-December morning in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. But to those paying attention to the weather, there was legitimate concern that conditions would not stay so pleasant. At 10 a.m., a Tornado Watch was issued for the area. And at 12:40 p.m., the National Weather Service in Birmingham issued a tornado warning for Tuscaloosa County. Fourteen minutes later, at 12:54 p.m., a tornado touched down in southwestern Tuscaloosa County, west of the Black Warrior River. It was on the ground for 18 miles and was responsible for 11 fatalities and 144 injuries, according to the Tuscaloosa County EMA. 

    Birmingham Nexrad, 12/16/17 at 12:57 p.m., 3 minutes after tornado touched down.

    NWS Birmingham path map of 12/16/2000 Tuscaloosa tornado
    The photo at the top of this post, by Michael Palmer of the Tuscaloosa News, circulated across the world via the Associated Press.  The girl in the picture, Whitney Crowder, survived the tornado but she lost her father and baby brother to the tornado.  Katherine Lee, of the Tuscaloosa News wrote about the Crowders' story in a touching article at this link.  Whitney told the News that her memories of that day begin when she woke up in Children's Hospital and saw friends and family at her bedside. “My first-grade teacher was there. I remember walking around the hospital and seeing my sister Abby.“ Otherwise, she relies on videos, photos and other people’s versions of events.  More on the Crowders' story can be seen in the 2014 WVUA report which is embedded below.






    ABC 33/40 Chief Meteorologist James Spann and his team, which included meteorologists Mark Prater and John Oldshue, did an excellent job providing coverage of this storm, and were awarded an Emmy. ABC 33/40 captured the tornado on a tower camera as it moved through the southern part of Tuscaloosa. James wrote later, "Our StormChaser van was heavily damaged in the storm; John Oldshue and his photographer had to rush in to a Hampton Inn to protect themselves as the tornado passed right over their location. The manager of the motel had all of the guests lined up in a hallway on the lowest floor, and nobody was injured there." Below is video of ABC 33/40 coverage.


    The screen capture below is from WVUA Tuscaloosa coverage of the tornado.


    This was the strongest tornado in Tuscaloosa in at least 50 years (since 1950) and it was the strongest December tornado in Alabama since at least 1950. It was the deadliest tornado in Alabama in 2000 and tied with a tornado in Georgia as the deadliest in the nation that year.  According to the National Weather Service Birmingham, "The tornado was spawned by a supercell thunderstorm that originated in Mississippi. This thunderstorm was responsible for additional tornado damage in St. Clair and Etowah counties...Tuscaloosa EMA reported 11 fatalities with this tornado along with 144 injuries. Nine of the fatalities occurred in mobile homes, one in a vehicle, and one in a commercial building converted to residential use. Six of those killed were females and five were males. Ages ranged from 16 months to 83 years old. The tornado was on the ground for a total of 18 miles, all within Tuscaloosa county. The tornado path was estimated to be 750 yards wide at it's maximum intensity." Complete storm survey information from the NWS Birmingham, including photos, can be found at this link

    Interestingly, researchers from Texas Tech University's Wind Science and Engineering Center believed that the damage was more consistent with actual wind speeds in the F2 range because the Fujita Scale did not take into account the building types nor quality of construction.  This helped lead to the "Enhanced Fujita Scale' or EF scale, which became operational in the United States in 2007. 

    Three other tornadoes occurred in Alabama on December 16, 2000.  One of those was responsible for the death of a woman in Geneva County who was thrown 75 yards from her mobile home.  A total of 24 tornadoes occurred that day across the Southeastern United States.

    Mike Wilhelm
    @Bamawx on Twitter
    Bamawx Facebook.

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    Photo by Shelby County Reporter
    Ten people were killed and six more were injured when a brief, relatively small, yet powerful tornado hit Harpersville in Shelby County, Alabama at 7 p.m. on Friday January 24, 1964.  The tornado was on the ground for only four miles and was never much wider than 100 yards. 

    In a storm survey report by Charles F. Bradley, NWS Birmingham, MIC and J.B. Elliott, NWS Birmingham, Forecaster, they describe the worst damage:

    "Two houses were completely carried away from their foundations.  One was picked up and carried some 500 feet, where it was slammed into another house.  Four died in that house (one of the injured died later), and 5 died in another house across Hwy 280 about 300 yards NE of the first house that was destroyed.  In the latter house, an electric freezer  weighing several hundred pounds was carried some 150 yards before being dropped."

    The Shelby County Reporter described the storm as follows:

    "It left ten dead and six injured. The path of this one was very narrow, ranging from only 50 yards to about 125 yards in width, but damage was heavy in the narrow path. This one struck entirely without warning. Birmingham radar was monitoring the area at the time. But the line of thunderstorms approaching Harpersville appeared only moderate -- proof that radar is by no means foolproof. Harpersville residents later reported that no unusual and brilliant display of lightning was seen, and most thought it was just an ordinary thundershower."

    Most likely this was a typical winter time low topped storm produced in a high shear, low instability environment.  These short-lived tornadoes are difficult to detect and warn for even in the age of Doppler radar, so it is no surprise that in 1964 this one happened without warning. 

    New York Times article from January 25, 1964.


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    January 1966 was one of the coldest months in Alabama history and the last week of January 1966 was particularly brutal with temperatures 18-21 degrees below average. The NOAA Monthly Weather Review shows that on the map below.

    January 1966 NOAA Monthly Weather Review
    This cold air was attributed to a strong ridge in the Northwest United States, extending to Alaska. This, in conjunction with a trough in the eastern half of the U.S., forced a series of shots of polar air southward. Adding to the mix was an unusual amount of snow cover.  On the 29th, 6-11" of snow was on the ground across North Alabama.  This set the stage for some all time records to be in jeopardy, including the all-time coldest temperature recorded in Alabama. 

    Alabamians awakened to the following low temperatures on the morning of January 30th:

    -27F in Hazel Green (Madison County)
    -24F in Russellville (Franklin County)
    -17F in Haleyville (Marion County)
    -12F at Redstone Arsenal (Madison County)
    -11F in Valley Head (DeKalb County)
    -4F in Birmingham (Jefferson County)
    -5F in Pinson (Jefferson County)
    -2F in Bessemer (Jefferson County)
    0F in Clanton (Chilton County)
    5F in Montgomery (Montgomery County)
    5F in Selma (Dallas County)
    9F in Fairhope (Baldwin County)
    9F in Bay Minette (Baldwin County)
    13F in Mobile (Mobile County)
    14F at Fort Morgan (Baldwin County)

    At the time it was reported that the coldest temperature was -24F in Russellville, but that was in error. It was the only time I have ever heard that an Alabama community reported the coldest temperature in the United States.  Alabama State Climatologist Dr. John Christy interviewed the observer in New Market in 1988.  She explained why the original report of -17F was changed to -27F.

    "Ms. Lucille Hereford of New Market in Madison County was town postmistress and served as the volunteer weather observer. Every morning she faithfully checked the high and low temperature, and the precipitation. I interviewed Ms. Hereford by phone in 1988 to get her story. She remembered that the sun was out on the morning of Jan. 30, 1966, and the ground was covered with 8" of new snow (Huntsville measured 7.3"). It was terribly cold. She walked out to the instrument shelter and opened the door. She couldn’t believe what she saw so she called an acquaintance who happened to be trudging by and asked him to read the little indicator that rested at the coldest temperature since it was reset the day before. He said it looked like -28° Fahrenheit, but she thought it was closer to "only" 27 below. Since she was the official reader, the observation was reported as -27° F – Alabama’s coldest ever recorded temperature. The official story has a twist: For some reason the value was officially recorded as -17° that morning, not -27°. That was a bit warmer than the -24° F reported at Russellville that day."
     
    According to NOAA Storm Data for January 1966, the snow and record cold of January 29-31, 1966 was responsible for 10 deaths, five injuries, and extensive damage to utility lines, water pumps, water lines, and automobiles. There was an extensive loss in poultry production. 
     
    Alabama has had a handful of other extreme cold waves in 1899, 1940, and 1985, but the extreme temperatures in isolated pockets of North Alabama were the coldest ever recorded in this state.
     
    Sources:
     
    NOAA Monthly Weather Review January 1966 
    NOAA Storm Data 1966
    Alabama Climate Report December 2010 Dr. John Christy
     
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    View of Huntsville from Bankhead Parkway on Monte Sano

    Huntsville Times February 2, 1985

    The worst ice storm in decades in North Alabama, if not the worst in recorded history, began in Northwest Alabama during the early morning hours Friday February 1, 1985.  It began as a mix of freezing rain and sleet in Lauderdale County. By the time it finally ended early Saturday February 2, 11 inches of sleet had accumulated in Florence and the entire North Alabama region was covered in heavy ice.

    Maysville Road in Northeast Huntsville
    On February 1, 1985 the NWS Huntsville issued a Special Weather Statement saying, “A damaging ice storm is ahead for NW Alabama. The National Weather Service emphasizes that this will be an ice storm of damaging proportions. There will be potential major damage to trees and utility lines and numerous highways will become impassable. There will likely be numerous and extended power outages. Early this morning, power lines were already falling in Southern Lawrence County and on Monte Sano Mountain in Huntsville.” This prediction was spot on. The video below is an actual recording from the Huntsville NOAA Weather Radio From the NWS Huntsville.



    Sleet and snow fell in northwestern parts of the state, accumulating to 11 inches. All roads were closed in Florence. In Huntsville, the precipitation was mostly freezing rain. It was by far the worst ice storm I’ve ever seen. In Northeast Huntsville, power was out for five days due to the heavy freezing rain and resulting damage to power lines.

    Near East Huntsville Baptist Church on Maysville Road.
    West and southwest of Huntsville, sleet piled up in amazing amounts. This ice storm came after one of the biggest cold snaps of all time when the temperature dropped to -11F in Huntsville on January 21, 1985. The streets were like ice skating rinks. When the sun came out, it melted the very top layer, making it impossible to even walk. I literally had to crawl part of the way to our neighbor’s house it was so slick. We were very fortunate to have a wood burning stove. The video below is my description of what I witnessed during the storm.



    Cullman roads iced over by noon Friday and that evening, 600 motorists were stranded between Birmingham and Cullman on I-65, forcing travellers to spend the night in shelters.. Hundreds of traffic accidents were reported across North Alabama.Roofs collapsed on three businesses in the Florence area and numerous carports and awnings fell victim to the weight of the sleet and snow. For the first time in recorded history, roads were closed in the Florence area. Most Huntsville television stations were off the air. The video below contains local radio coverage of the historic ice storm. Stations include: WBHP 1230 AM, WAAY 1550 AM, WZYP 104.3 FM, and Q104 FM.



    Additional photos I took during the ice storm in Huntsville, Alabama:

    Bankhead Parkway, Monte Sano

    Wooddale Drive, NE Huntsville

    Near Chapman School, NE Huntsville

    Oak Park, NE Huntsville

    Oakwood Avenue, NE Huntsville
    Here is the NOAA Storm Data publication write-up about the event from February 1985:

     
     



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    Credit: NOAA

    One of the heaviest snows in Alabama history occurred on February 15,1958. Huntsville received 8.0" of snow, which was the highest February snow total on record until 8.1" was recorded on February 25, 2015.

    This snow event was caused by a strong low in the Southeast combined with a strong upper level trough. This Southeastern low later evolved into a coastal low. This coastal low brought over 30" of snow to the Catskills and western New England.

    February 1958 snowfall accumulation compared to average. Credit: Storm Data

    Other snowfall totals reported in Alabama on February 15, 1958 included:

    16.0" in Hayleyville in Winston (per Alabama State Climatologist Arthur Long in a 1964 report)

    7.0" in Leesburg in Cherokee County (per NOAA National Center for Environmental Information)

    5.0" Jacksonville in Calhoun County (NWS Birmingham)

    2.0" in Columbia in Houston County (per NOAA National Center for Environmental Information)


    According to Bill Murray with Alabamawx.com, "The northwest corner of Alabama was blanketed with 3-6 inches of snow. Six to eight inches fell in Decatur. As often is the case around these parts, snowfall amounts varied over a short distance. While there was two inches on the ground in Bessemer, there was none in Tuscaloosa. At the Birmingham Municipal Airport, A Delta Airlines DC-7 slid off the runway on Saturday morning and buried itself nose deep in slush and mud when the nosewheel broke. None of the 43 passengers were injured."

    Mike Wilhelm

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    NWS Birmingham Map of Severe Hail Event - 4/25/2003
     
    Severe weather, especially in the form of large hail, affected much of Central Alabama Friday April 25, 2003. Fortunately there were no injuries nor fatalities reported with this event, but property damage was significant.  At least four supercells were responsible for this severe weather event.

    This event included three confirmed tornadoes:

    Pickens County: An F1 tornado, a landspout (a tornado forming under an updraft in a thunderstorm), touched down in the southwestern Pickens County communities of Dancy and Cochrane, destroying one site-built home, a mobile home, and downing trees at 10:57 a.m.

    Greene-Hale: An F0 tornado touched down near the Greene County Power Plant on the Greene-Hale county line and blew down trees, destroyed a mobile home, and damaged a church at 1:30 p.m.

    Elmore County: An F0 tornado touched down northwest of Tallassee, blew down trees, and caused some roof damage to homes along its .6 mile path.

    The biggest story of this severe weather event was not the tornadoes; it was the hail!  There were at least 50 reports of severe hail (in 2003 the criteria for severe hail was 3/4" or greater. That changed to 1" or greater in 2010).  Some of the largest hail in Alabama history fell in these storms and hail reports were widespread.  There were 22 reports of golf ball-size hail (1 3/4") or larger in 15 different counties.  Counties affected by golf ball-size or larger hail included: Bibb, Perry, Chilton, Autauga, Macon, Lee, Russell, Greene, Hale, Elmore, Dallas, Montgomery, Cherokee, Marengo, and DeKalb counties.

    Photo via NWS Birmingham by Chris Howard

    Baseball-size hail (2 3/4") or larger fell in four counties: Chilton, Macon, Lee, Elmore, and Montgomery.  The largest hail that fell was softball-size (4 1/2").  This fell first in Bibb County from just south of the town of Brent to the Randolph, Pondville, and Lawley communities between 12:50 and 1:53 p.m.  Several locations reported hail as deep as one foot in Bibb County!  Numerous automobiles and homes were damaged.  Funnel clouds were also reported with this supercell as it moved across Bibb County. Softball size hail also fell in Autauga County between 2:55 p.m. and 3:46 p.m.

    Sources:
    National Weather Service Birmingham Storm Survey
    NOAA Storm Data publication, April 2003

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    1953 was a bad year for killer tornadoes in the United States and Alabama was not immune. The nationwide death toll in 1953 was 519 and in Alabama it was 24. Tornadoes killed one Alabamian on February 20, 1953 and fourteen on April 18, 1953.  The spring tornado season was not over, though, and nine were killed and seventeen injured in the state on Friday May 1, 1953.
    
    

    May 2, 1953 Florence Times

    The May 1, 1953 outbreak included two tornadoes which were considered to be F4 intensity. Officially there were four documented tornadoes in the state that day.  But without the ability to detect and confirm smaller tornadoes especially in rural areas that we have today, it would not be surprising if there were additional tornadoes which were not documented. 

    Map of 5/1/1953 Tornadoes

    Tornado #1 - Chilton County F2 - 5:15 p.m.
    This tornado was on the ground for 1 1/2 miles and was about 100 yards wide in the Minooka community, five miles south of Calera and six miles north of Jemison, in northern Chilton County.  One person was injured, five homes were damaged, and six barns were destroyed.  Fortunately there were no fatalities.

    According to the May 2, 1953 Florence (Alabama) Times, "Two awed Highway Patrol officers saw a tornado appear near Calera, 33 miles south of Birmingham. 'We watched it form and begin to pick things up, related W.L. Allen. When it got too close to us, we ran like hell.'  A negro mother and child were injured and four or five homes were leveled in this section before the raging winds bounded toward the east....Old highway 31 south of Calera was blocked for a time by fallen trees and power lines. Traffic was halted until the road could be cleared." 


    Tornado #2 - Clay County F4 - 7:30 p.m.
    This tornado was on the ground for 12.1 miles and was 440 yards wide in the Millerville-Lineville area. Seven people died and twelve were injured in this storm.  According to the NWS Birmingham tornado database, 19 homes were destroyed, 50 homes were damaged, 36 other buildings were destroyed, and 57 other buildings were damaged. "Numerous chickens were killed and stripped of their feathers," according to the NWS report. 


    A user on the Tornado History Project website made this comment about the tornado, "Although it occurred three years before my birth, I often heard my parents speak of this storm. Late in the evening at dark while frying fish with another couple, my mother (who was pregnant with my older brother) heard an all too familiar roar much like she heard on March 21, 1932 as her home was destroyed in Paint Rock, Alabama. The others insisted that it was a train, but Mom insisted that it was a tornado. "Once you hear that sound, you never forget it." They stepped outside to look around and the funnel was less that two blocks away. Dad described it as a slender wedge with much debris aloft, the base of the funnel gyrating in a looping fashion. They jumped into the car to outrun it, but noticed it was moving away from them. Their perspective would have been on State Highway 49 just south of Lineville but north of the tornado's path. Dad was the local dentist and spent that night at the hospital in nearby Ashland helping treat victims of the storm. I am very thankful they didn't pursue outrunning the tornado, especially at dark! Strangly, this storm occurred at the same time as the Paint Rock Tornado."

    According to the May 2, 1953 Florence (Alabama) Times, "The storm smashed upon a cluster of homes near Ashland just as night fell, killing seven persons in three family groups. The blasting winds and accompanying lightning storm knocked out all electric power at Ashland. The first injured brought to the tiny Clay County Hospital were treated by candlelight....the Clay County Hospital reported treating 10 persons."


    Tornado #3 - Jefferson County F1 - 8:00 p.m.
    This small tornado briefly touched down in Trussville and was only on the ground for 1/10th of a mile and was reportedly only 10 yards wide.  No one was injured or killed, but according to the NWS tornado database five homes and one other building were destroyed and one other building was damaged.

    Tornado #4 - Choctaw County F4 - 8:00 p.m.
    On the ground for 10 miles and 200 yards wide, this tornado was responsible for the deaths of two people and injuries to three others in the Riderwood, Lisman, and Yantley communities.  According to the NWS Birmingham, two homes were "disintegrated" at Yantley and the debris was thrown over a half mile.

    Sources:

    NWS Birmingham - Alabama Tornado Database - 1953
    "The Deadly Tornado Year of 1953" - Alabamawx.com, by Bill Murray
    Tornado History Project
    Florence Times - May 2, 1953

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    Photo by Crandall McKey, via NWS Huntsville
    On May 18, 1995, an F4 tornado struck Limestone and Madison counties in the Tennessee Valley of North Alabama.

    To see storm survey data, photos, storm reports, maps, and other data from this event, vistit the NWS Huntsville page here: National Weather Service Huntsville Storm Survey

    In 1995, I followed the Anderson Hills tornado through Limestone County. I was one of the first on the scene of a major disaster at a trailer park northeast of Athens. I remember carrying a man out on a door who was bleeding from his neck and chest as I left the scene.

    The Anderson Hills Tornado struck Huntsville, Alabama on May 18, 1995, killing one person and causing extensive damage and devastation, including the destruction of the Anderson Hills subdivision. It was rated an F4 when it made a direct hit on the subdivision. The tornado touched down just northwest of Athens. It tracked from that point through eastern Limestone County, through Harvest, Meridianville, and New Market in northern Madison County, Alabama, and ended near Princeton in northwest Jackson County, Alabama. The strongest portion of the tornado's path was near Harvest in northwest Madison County around the Anderson Hills subdivision and the Huntsville Dragway, which is the reason it is usually referred to as the "Anderson Hills Tornado".

    Birmingham NEXRAD, 5:32 p.m., one minute before touch down.
    The tornado first touched down at 5:33 p.m. approximately three miles northwest of Athens, just east of Alabama Highway 99. The tornado moved across Alabama Highway 127, then across I-65 near the interchange with U.S. Highway 31. From there, the tornado strengthened as it continued east, crossing Alabama Highway 251, where it destroyed 13 mobile homes at the Oakdale Mobile Home Park. At this point of devastation, one person received major injuries from the tornado and died two days later; Chuck Dale, 30 years of age, was the one fatality of the tornado. Around this time, a Tornado Warning was issued for Madison County to give residents on the northwest side of the county an opportunity to take cover; tornado sirens were activated at 5:43 p.m., one minute after the warning was issued. Meanwhile, the tornado began to move slightly north of east, moving across Mooresville Road and crossing through the Copeland community near the intersection of Copeland Road and East Limestone Road. It continued to strengthen as it crossed over Limestone Creek and approached the Madison County line. Overall in Limestone County, 35 buildings were damaged or destroyed, and 26 mobile homes were destroyed. Around 9,500 customers lost electricity in the county, where damage was estimated to be $1.5 million.

    Birmingham NEXRAD, 5:42 p.m., when Madison County Warning was issued
    At 5:42 p.m., the NWS Huntsville issued the following warning:

    WFUS1 KHSV 182241
    TORHSV
    ALC089-182345-
    BULLETIN - EBS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
    TORNADO WARNING
    NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HUNTSVILLE AL
    542 PM CDT THU MAY 18 1995

    THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN HUNTSVILLE HAS ISSUED A
    TORNADO WARNING EFFECTIVE UNTIL 645 PM CDT
    FOR PEOPLE IN THE FOLLOWING LOCATIONS...

    IN NORTH ALABAMA

    ...MADISON COUNTY

    AT 535 PM CDT RADAR AT THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE OFFICE IN HUNSVILLE
    INDICATED A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM OVER WESTERN LIMESTONE COUNTY NEAR ELKMONT.

    THIS STORM IS MOVING TO THE EAST AT AROUND 40 MILES PER HOUR.

    ...POSSIBLE FUNNEL CLOUDS SITED NORTH OF ATHENS IN LIMESTONE COUNTY.

    The tornado crossed into Madison County around 5:50 p.m. on Love Branch Road, just north of the Yarborough Road intersection. It continued an east-northeasterly path across Carroll Road, Old Railroad Bed Road, and Wall Triana Highway, crossing just south of Harvest Elementary School. At 5:52 p.m., Madison County Fire dispatch reported that the tornado was on the ground near Harvest. It crossed Fords Chapel Road before taking a direct hit on the Anderson Hills subdivision along Alabama Highway 53. At this point, the tornado was at F4 intensity and the subsequent survey would also reveal evidence of it having multiple vortices. A total of 39 well-constructed houses in the subdivision sustained major damage, and 21 were destroyed. The Piggly Wiggly along Highway 53 also received damage. At 5:54 p.m., the Madison County Sheriff's Department confirmed the tornado had crossed Old Railroad Bed Road and Alabama Highway 53. As a result of these reports, tornado sirens were reactivated in Madison County one minute later. The tornado continued east-northeast making a glancing blow to the Huntsville Dragway before crossing Quarter Mountain Road and Bollweevil Lane on the northern face of Quarter Mountain. Next it crossed Hammond Lane (where is caused major damage to a few two story brick homes), Beaver Dam Road, Beaverdam Creek, and Pulaski Pike. It moved over Beaverdam Creek a second time at Mount Lebanon Road as it moved into the Meridianville area, then across Patterson Lane. Shortly after 6:00 p.m., the tornado crossed U.S. Highway 231/431 at Steger Curve - around Brier Fork bridge. Here, substantial damage was done to a cotton gin and a large farm house was spun off its foundation.

    Video showing regional radar loop:



    WHNT News 19 Huntsville report on how one family survived:



    Sources:
    NWS Huntsville
    WHNT News 19
    Wikipedia
    First-hand account

older | 1 | 2 | (Page 3)