The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

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April 27, 2011

Widespread damage reported locally

— Three waves of powerful storms Wednesday spawned tornadoes and brought collapsed roofs, toppled trees, downed power lines, flooding and, at one point, dangled a funnel cloud over the Limestone County Courthouse, causing widespread damage throughout the county but no reported injuries.

The Associated Press reported at least six people killed in Alabama because of the storms, including two in St. Clair County and one in Cullman County, who died after a tree fell on a car.

The first wave of the super cell storm struck about 4:40 a.m. Monday, causing assorted damage on New Cut and Lucas Ferry roads. The second wave came around 9:20 a.m., when a tornado was reported near Trinity moving northeast toward Decatur and into Limestone. Students at Athens and Limestone County schools were directed to take cover. Many North Alabama schools and colleges, including Limestone County schools, had delayed opening only to have to dismiss before and after the third wave of storms struck. Before 11:15 a.m., ominous clouds, illuminated by bolts of lightning, darkened U.S. 72 heading into Athens and a third tornado warning of the morning was issued. A fourth, more violent, storm was expected Wednesday. A tornado had already been reported in downtown Cullman at 2:45 p.m.

“We were here at work when we saw a wall cloud approaching,” said Daphne Ellison of the Limestone County Emergency Management Agency on West Market Street in Athens. “We saw just a dark wall and then the reports of damage started coming in about 11:16 on Batts Road.”

Residents there in the Ripley community reported winds of 70 to 80 miles per hour and trees down, including some on a county tractor building.

A weather spotter and others reported seeing a funnel cloud drop from the wall cloud around the same time and then withdraw. Others reported seeing a tornado near Athens High School, where debris was spotted.

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