Rare weather threatens Tuscaloosa area

By Brianna Duncan
Staff Writer

TUSCALOOSA- In the past two weeks, Central Alabama has been slammed with severe weather events. It is rare to have such intense tornado outbreaks, nevertheless two within seven days. 

On March 17, there were a total of 25 tornados, with 6 injuries and no fatalities. Meteorologists like Richard Scott of WVUA in Tuscaloosa say the outcome is a miracle. None of the tornadoes were long track and none of them were declared more destructive than an EF-2.

An EF-2 tornado has sustained winds of up to 135 miles per hour. Just above this is an EF-3, which hit Calhoun County with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph on March 25. This storm caused 5 deaths and 10 injuries as of April 1 – the numbers remain pending. Three people died in a wooden structured home, and 2 died in mobile homes. 

Similarly, on March 25, a large and extremely dangerous tornado made its way into Helena, Alabama, where Hope Seitz, a Birmingham citizen was taking shelter. 

“We knew there was a warning and took shelter, everything was loud and scary, but then suddenly everything was silent, which almost felt worse,” Seitz and her family drove toward Old Town Helena after the storm has passed to see the damage. 

“Almost all the trees were gone by Buck Creek, and two buildings no longer had a roof, it was so bad seeing such a familiar place look unrecognizable.” 

Caitlin Pannell, a 19-year-old Helena native, was taking shelter with her grandparents. 

“We heard it, it was terrifying,” she recalled. “They say it sounds like a train but to me, it didn’t,  it just sounded so scary, it felt like everything was shaking.”

While the damage totals are preliminary, there is no doubt March 25 could have been much worse, considering there were two tornado emergencies. According to the National Weather Service, a Tornado Emergency is announced when a severe threat to human life is imminent or ongoing, catastrophic damage is imminent or ongoing, and a reliable source has confirmed a large and dangerous tornado is on the ground. 

“My kids were in Havana Junction, and that monster [tornado emergency storm] was heading right toward them,” Scott, the meteorologist, said. “I had to step off and text my wife every 2 minutes because I was terrified.” 

The storm triggered memories of April 27, 2011 — when Scott lost everything to a tornado.

“This stuff is serious,” he said. “I try to say this on air. I don’t want to scare people, I want them to be prepared.”

You can learn how to be prepared at https://www.ready.gov/tornadoes.