Most years, the staff of The News Courier has a discussion to decide which story was the biggest news of the previous year.
In 2011, there was no discussion: The tornado outbreak of April 27 was the biggest news even not only in Limestone County but also in Alabama.
A list of the Top 10 stories of 2011 follows, with a synopsis of each. Separate stories also will be included in today’s edition on the tornado outbreak and the local impact of the immigration law.
1. The Mega-Outbreak
On April 27, tornado sirens began sounding at about 9 a.m. It is not an uncommon sound in Limestone County, but this day, the warnings came in waves — 92 would sound across northern Alabama, finally ending late in the afternoon when deadly tornadoes tore down TVA lines that powered the sirens.
It was a day when many prayers were answered — dozens of people whose homes blew away around them somehow survived. It was also a day of sorrow: Four Limestone Countians lost their lives. As many as 450 homes were destroyed, leaving their occupants homeless, and another 250 were damaged.
It would be six days before power was restored to most areas of Limestone and Madison counties. It was a surreal time.
Many mourned lost loved ones. Hundreds wandered through the rubble of their homes, wondering how they would rebuild their lives.
Among the seven tornadoes to hit Limestone that Wednesday — of the 62 statewide and 214 across the South — was an EF5, the strongest and deadliest. This twister traveled 132 miles, including 106 in the state of Alabama, and took nearly the same path — from Swan Creek Management Area through Tanner, across U.S. 72 and into the East Limestone community — as the deadly F5 took on April 3, 1974. Many people lost their homes for a second time on April 27. For a more in-depth look at the April 27 tornado outbreak, see story under Local News.