Archive for Monday, January 23, 2012

Tornadoes leave 2 dead, over 100 hurt

January 23, 2012

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— Knowing this community’s history of tornadoes, Jhan Powers gets nervous any time violent weather rolls in. While her house was spared this time, a tornado demolished nearby mobile homes — all of which were just a short drive from a path of destruction cut just last year by a deadly twister.

At least two tornadoes roared across the heart of Alabama on Monday, killing two people and injuring more than 100 others during the middle of the night. More than 200 homes were destroyed, the Red Cross said, and just as many houses were heavily damaged.

The storm awoke families, and many huddled together as winds howled outside. After the storms passed, rescue teams had to go door-to-door in some places, calling out to residents.

The unincorporated community of Oak Grove was hit hard in April and again Monday, though officials said none of the same neighborhoods was struck twice.

“I would really like to never see another tornado again,” Powers said as neighbors sorted through the remnants of their home. “When you see this destruction, how can you not take it seriously?”

The area near Birmingham has a history of being a tornado alley going back decades. In April, about 20 people were killed in Jefferson County, most of them close to Oak Grove.

Powers’ brother was injured in April 1998 when a tornado killed 34 people, injured 260 and destroyed Oak Grove High School. The storm left barren what was once a heavily wooded section of the county.

In a sign the state has become all too familiar with severe weather, officials had to reschedule a meeting Monday to receive a report on their response to the spring twisters.

Retiree Mary Roberts covered her mouth with her hand and grew misty-eyed describing what happened within sight of her mobile home on Toadvine Cemetery Road in Oak Grove.

As dawn broke, residents surveyed the damage and began cleaning up across several parts of central Alabama. The governor declared a state of emergency.

The storm system stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, producing hail, strong winds and rain.

Jefferson County, Ala., has been infamous for destructive tornadoes dating back to the 1930s.

State Climatologist John Christy said there seems to be a general path from central Mississippi going into north Alabama that gets attention for a large number of especially intense tornadoes. One theory has to do with the distance from the Gulf of Mexico. The area sits between the warm moist air from the Gulf and cold air from the north.

“It’s the frequency and intensity of the storms that tend to align on this corridor,” said Christy, a professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

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