The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 18, 2013

Possible tornado surprises Athens


Associated Press

— ATHENS, Ala. (AP) — An unconfirmed tornado on Friday afternoon knocked down trees, flipped Dumpsters and damaged the roof of the nearby WalMart in Athens.

A forecaster at the National Weather Service in Huntsville said the suspected tornado started about a mile south-southeast of Athens and moved in a line toward southwest Ardmore. It struck at about 2 p.m.

Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said that he saw the backside of a wall cloud that had a tail. Police followed as it moved up Route 31 to Interstate 65.

He said a minor injury was reported as a woman rushed to find shelter. Signs at a strip mall and a Zaxby's restaurant were also blown down.

Emergency management director Rita White said the only confirmed report was a "funnel cloud that hit treetops, power lines and knocked down one tree on a house on Roy Long Road."

Andy Kula, a meteorologist with the Huntsville National Weather Service, said the Storms Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., had placed the Tennessee Valley in the slight risk category for severe weather.

The storm's second touchdown in Limestone County occurred about 2:45 p.m. on Oak Grove Road south of Ardmore. Responders reported that the storm was sucking up debris and damaging rooftops and trees.

Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely said he received reports of two houses and a barn damaged on Thatch Road in the Oak Grove area.

"Our deputies said the tornado appeared to touch down a couple of times in that area, but most it stayed in the air," Blakely said. "It had a lot of lift in it, so we were very lucky that we didn't have any more damage than we did."