Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Alabama Tornado Ravages Birmingham Suburb of Fultondale

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Monday night, 25 January 2021, a tornado swept across north central Alabama in the small Jefferson county town of Fultondale, a bedroom community adjacent to and north of Birmingham, the state’s most populous city.

Long considered part of the state’s “Tornado Alley,” residents were struck around 10:30 PM when a category EF-2 storm with winds in excess of 135 mph (217 kph), twisted a quarter-mile wide swath of destruction after touching down near Interstate 65 and mowed a 10-mile path from Fultondale to Center Point in the same area destroyed by another, larger tornado some years earlier.

Patti Herring sobs as she sorts through the remains of her home in Fultondale, Ala., on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, after it was destroyed by a tornado. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

Fultondale residents haven’t forgotten about April 27, 2011 when they were struck by the tail end of an EF-4 tornado that wreaked a devastating path from the college town of Tuscaloosa south and west of Birmingham, though northern Jefferson County killing 65, and injuring 1500. The National Weather Service said that storm was over 80 miles (130 kilometers) long.

Last night’s search and rescue efforts were hampered by darkness, and indiscriminate wreckage which was strewn about like so much flotsam and jetsam. First Responders and rescuers from throughout the county sifting through the rubble were weary by daybreak, but kept up their efforts, hoping to find people, instead of bodies. Their hopes were largely rewarded, but for one tragedy – the death of 14-year-old Elliott Hernandez who was identified by the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office which made an official pronouncement of his death at 4:48 AM.

Fultondale Police Chief D.P. Smith said that Elliott was found dead at the scene around 3AM when rescuers found his family’s home collapsed after a tree had fallen upon it, which killed him, and trapped and critically injured several family members in the basement.

Elliott’s death was the only life lost during the storm, and Chief Smith said that by sheltering in the basement, “They were doing what they were supposed to be doing.”

Jefferson County Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin said Elliott was in the 9th grade, and noted that other students could be homeless now, and added that the tornado so extensively damaged Fultondale High School to the extent that he doubted students would be able to return to classrooms this year.

Downed power lines, fallen trees which blocked roads, and strewn housing detritus were commonplace, which also hampered search and rescue efforts.

At a 10AM press conference Fultondale Fire Chief Justin McKenzie said that a total of 30 people were injured in the storm, 18 of whom were hospitalized, with another 6 who had been trapped in their homes, who were rescued. Non-critical injuries included broken bones, head injuries, cuts, and bruises.

Fire Chief McKenzie said, “Sadly, here in Fultondale, we’re very experienced in this kind of thing. We knew exactly what to do and when to do it, we just don’t like to do it.”


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