The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 25, 2012

Mobile damaged by tornado, 26,600 without power

— MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A school, church and several homes in downtown Mobile were damaged by a likely tornado Tuesday before the storm system that brought twisters to many places in the South moved to other parts of the state.

Waves of storms moved across the city, complicating damage assessments because of the continued threat of high winds or twisters. National Weather Service officials Tuesday night said information on top wind speeds was not immediately available. The agency expected to perform damage assessments Wednesday morning.

Forecasters in Mobile said southwestern Alabama could see a series of severe thunderstorms following the tornado, and additional twisters could form in the area through the early morning.

Tornado warning sirens blared more than two hours after the first line of storms came through.

Rick Cauley, his wife, Ashley, and two children were hosting members of both of their families. When the sirens went off, the family headed down block to take shelter at the athletic field house at Mobile's Murphy High School.

"As luck would have it, that's where the tornado hit," Cauley said. "The pressure dropped and the ears started popping and it got crazy for a second." They were all fine, though the school was damaged.

WALA-TV posted a photo (http://bit.ly/TszP4J) of a large funnel cloud forming in the distance around 5 p.m. Tuesday. As of 8 p.m. no serious injuries had been reported.

The storm overturned cars and blew out windows at Mobile Infirmary, which was operating on generator power because of outages, but no one was hurt, said Nancy Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Mobile County Commission.

Scott Rye, a senior warden at Trinity Episcopal Church, said a large section of the church's roof was missing and the front wall of the parish hall building was destroyed in the storm.

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