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Updated on: Wednesday, January 27, 2021, 10:38 PM IST

Killer winter tornado stuns storm-savvy Alabama town

Tim Herring, who survived the twister by huddling in a bathtub with wife Patti Herring as winds ripped off the roof of their house and splintered walls, had followed weather forecasts during the day and didn't expect the worst until it happened
PIC: AFP

PIC: AFP

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James Scott has never lived anywhere other than a two-story house on hilly Darlene Drive north of Birmingham. Home will never be the same after a tornado smashed the structure into pieces, killed another teen and left the community devastated in the middle of the night.

Standing in the middle of the destruction Tuesday, the 19-year-old stared blankly at the rubble for a few moments, seemingly unsure what to do next.

"It's time to regroup and start clean," he said. "It's the best I can hope for." The terrifying nighttime tornado that blasted through suburban Birmingham late Monday, trapping entire families in the remnants of shattered homes and injuring 30, left a trail of destruction that stunned even longtime residents used to Alabama's violent weather.

Tim Herring, who survived the twister by huddling in a bathtub with wife Patti Herring as winds ripped off the roof of their house and splintered walls, had followed weather forecasts during the day and didn't expect the worst until it happened.

Many others narrowly escaped with their lives. At least 30 people were injured as the tornado carved a 10-mile (16 kilometer) path through Birmingham's northern suburbs, an area severely damaged by a much larger tornado a decade ago.

Ninth-grader Elliott Hernandez, 14, was killed and several relatives were critically injured when their home collapsed, trapping them in the basement, Fultondale Police Chief D.P. Smith said.

"They were doing what they were supposed to be doing," Smith said.

Search efforts continued for hours in neighborhoods where it was difficult to tell where houses had stood. Across the wrecked landscape, every visible structure was damaged or destroyed. Pieces of children's toys and clothing were scattered across the terrain littered with broken trees. Fallen utility lines crisscrossed roads.

Located about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Birmingham, Fultondale is home to about 9,000 people. It's mostly middle class with a mix of new subdivisions and older homes.

The National Weather Service said the twister was at least a strong EF-2 with 135 mph (217 kph) winds based on initial surveys, but storm assessments continued.

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Published on: Wednesday, January 27, 2021, 10:38 PM IST
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