After the Tornadoes: Toward Understanding
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Simply type the words “Alabama tornado” into any search engine and there’ll be hundreds, if not thousands of entries returned. Add to those words “April 27, 2011” and not only will your search be further refined, but you may gain a whole new perspective on the destructive forces of nature.
Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave in Tora Bora for the last several years, or were recently buried at sea, you’ve probably read or heard about the hundreds of tornadoes that struck throughout North and Central Alabama, bringing with them resultant death, and widespread destruction.
Sure, we’ve all heard jokes about Alabama, trailer parks and tornadoes. But I assure you, there are just as many – if not more – trailer parks in California, than in Alabama. They just cost more in California. However, to be certain, humor is an important part of healing. And we Southerners – as quirky as we often are – laugh at ourselves quite frequently. The best part about it all is that we’re family. It’s kinda’ difficult to hate a stranger, which is to explain in part why we get madder’n a wet hen when outsiders mock or deride us. They don’t know that we’re all related… somehow, someway.
And yes, there’ll be the veritable “inbred” jokes as well. But to think of it, every human being has a blood relation back to Noah and Adam. So, in a very real way, we’re all kinfolk, albeit somewhat distant. Which is why this event seems to hurt so much more. It’s kinda’ hard to cry at your neighbor-down-the-street’s funeral, but much easier to cry at your mama’s funeral. You’re closer.
The point of it all, is that this event – the magnitude, the depth, breadth, severity and extent – are unparalleled in history, and it’s hit right at home – which is closer than New Orleans, even though we are Southern cousins – or New York City, which is a whole ‘nother planet in itself, with skyscrapers, concrete canyons, asphalt fields, and 24-hour everything, including noise, (but we are kinfolk).
This is Alabama’s 9/11.
This is Alabama’s Katrina.
Tornadoes within tornadoes, winds in excess of 200mph… those two phenomena alone have never been witnessed.
The National Weather Service said a tornado a mile wide that appeared to originate in Hackleburg, AL traveled 132 miles, with winds surpassing 210 mph, left what some described as “a nonstop scar in the earth” 90 miles from Hackleburg to north of Huntsville, AL. That tornado was the only one to have been given the strongest rating of EF-5, and is thought to have claimed 70 lives, making it the solitary deadliest single tornado in Alabama’s history, and the second deadliest tornado in American history since the 1955 tornado in Udall, Kansas, which claimed 80 lives.
A NWS authored report of the nearby Phil Campbell, AL area reads: “A 25-foot section of pavement was sucked up and scattered. Chunks of pavement were found in a home over 1/3 mile down the road. The damage in this area was deemed to be EF-5.”
Altogether, nearly a dozen separate tornadoes claimed more than 230 Alabama lives on April 27.
Never before in history have TVA transmission lines been destroyed. Never before have North & Central Alabamians been without power from such a storm. Several years ago, an ice storm wreaked havoc throughout North & Central Alabama, but that power outage was primarily from extensive icing on rural, local, and neighborhood power lines, and from limbs or trees having fallen on them – not failure of major transmission lines. Major transmission lines feed cities with power.
To give you an idea of the scope and size of a major transmission line tower, here are two TVA-supplied photos documenting the destruction, and repair on just two towers. Remember – there were 350 knocked down.
Undoubtedly, this will be a years-long recovery.