— From staff, wire reports
The worst of Wednesday’s storms missed Limestone County but brought back frightening memories for local students attending Auburn University, as well as residents in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa.
The series of thunderstorms and possible tornadoes were the state’s worst storms since the April 27 tornado outbreak that killed four people in Limestone County, nine in Madison and 247 statewide.
Warning sirens sounded in the majority of Alabama’s 67 counties Wednesday, a day after the anniversary of the deadly 1989 tornado that struck Huntsville. The sound made many who experienced the April 27 twisters nervous.
Athens resident Rebecca Croomes, a former intern for The News Courier and photographer for The Auburn Plainsman, was sent on assignment to photograph damage sustained when a suspected twister touched down in Lee County.
Rebecca, who took photographs in Limestone County of the aftermath of April 27, said after touring damaged areas Wednesday, she felt Auburn was likely hit by a “small tornado.”
Mobile homes in Auburn’s Gentilly Park and Ridgewood Village were damaged and a number of large trees were uprooted in the area of Green Street near Samford Avenue in Auburn, behind Auburn High School, and at Terrace Acres Apartments. An estimated 5,800 were without power in Auburn.
There were no reports of damage on the Auburn University campus and no injuries were reported.
Shannon Kazek of Harvest, daughter of News Courier Managing Editor Kelly Kazek and an Auburn freshman, was heading to Auburn’s student center at about noon when warning sirens sounded. She said security officers were ordering students to the lowest floor of the center, where they were told to “get down.” Then the power went out.
Shannon watched from a window as rain blew horizontally and winds pummeled the building. She tried to call home but her cellphone would not work. She said most of her fellow students, who did not experience the April storms, wondered why she was so panicked.
“They didn’t understand I lived through that,” said Shannon, who had volunteered in devastated areas of Limestone County following the April twisters.
Residents of Tuscaloosa, where 50 people were killed April 27, felt similar twinges. A weather warning system failed near Tuscaloosa as the storms passed, but no serious injuries or deaths were reported. Still, the day was a harsh reminder of the threat of violent weather for communities still recovering from the killer outbreak that occurred less than seven months ago.
“It makes you sit up on the edge of the chair a little more,” said Tom Perryman, who works for the school system in Tuscaloosa County.
In North Alabama, trees were toppled in Madison County near Huntsville but no injuries were reported.
A suspected twister damaged at least four homes and injured several people in Sumter County, trapping an elderly woman in her home as a tree crashed into the structure. More damage was reported in Marengo County, where a motel, a garage and an agricultural cooperative lost parts of their roofs in Demopolis.
Forecasters said a cold front stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northeast was to blame for the bad weather. The system wasn’t as strong as the one that caused scores of deaths and miles of destruction in the spring, but temperatures dropped from the low 70s into the 50s as the front passed, and winds gusted to near 30 mph in northeast Alabama.
The National Weather Service in Huntsville reported a record high minimum temperature of 64 degrees Tuesday. The previous record high low temperature was 63 degrees in 1961.