Severe weather. It was the talk of the weekend.
Super tornado outbreak dynamics were detected and prewarnings were hitting the airways.
The threat of severe weather lingered, and many across Limestone County were at the ready, including Athens Utilities.
Monday’s line of storms chose a path through the southwestern portion of the county.
Sirens sounded. Many took cover. Two lost their lives. About 30 were injured.
The National Weather Service rated the twister an EF3 that was 600 yards wide with 140-mph peak winds. According to reports from NWS, the tornado traveled 15.7 miles starting at Bay Hill Marina and traveling east-northeast along Snake and Log Cabin Roads to U.S. 72, Blue Springs, Parker, Seven Mile Post and Quinn roads. Debris was thrown across U.S. 72 to Gordon and New Cut roads.
Damage including snapped and uprooted trees extended for about one mile on either side of the center track.
The NWS believes two other super cells followed the initial tornado and crossed in about the same areas and an additional brief tornado was possible close to the damage path.
By the time the severe weather turned into a steady rain, at least 16,000 residents from Bay Hill Marina and the Coxey community to the Owens community and Athens were without power.
Athens Utilities provides power to more than 47,000 customers in the county.
Athens linemen and utility crews like the area’s first responders were some of the first on the ground. Immediately, crews began to de-energize downed power lines to clear the way for rescue workers.
After the restoration process began, crews worked tirelessly through the night and into the days that followed.
Crews were faced with assessing the damage and developing a plan for the monumental job, according to officials with Athens Utilities. Officials said it was clear from the start that Athens Utilities would need outside assistance. Foreman Johnnie Pryor said “miles and miles of power lines” needed to be restored.
In the hours and days that followed, 12 crews from other parts of Alabama and Tennessee convened in Limestone County to join in the cleanup and restoration efforts.
Crews from Huntsville, Decatur, Cullman, Russellville, Florence, Tuskegee, Troy, Guntersville and Scottsboro as well as Tennessee crews from Lawrenceburg, Benton County and Tullahoma united to put residents back on the grid. The crews doubled the manpower of the Athens Utilities crews. Warehouse supply staff, dispatchers and customer service personnel supported the crews.