Incredible stories of survival in East Alabama - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Incredible stories of survival in East Alabama

Thousands of trees were snapped and uprooted as an EF-3 tornado tracked through Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair, Calhoun, Etowah and Cherokee Counties. Its track began as an EF-0 to an EF-1 in Argo between Deerfoot Parkway and Advent Road. It passed through Margaret in St. Clair County, and strengthened as it moved into Shoal Creek, north of Ohatchee, through southeast Etowah County, into Cherokee County and finally left the state moving into Georgia at 7:47 p.m.

For 72 miles, this tornado pummeled parts of east Alabama taking the lives of 23 people (14 in St. Clair County, 9 in Calhoun). Homes were wiped clean of their foundation and a large section of a forest was flattened, making the tall trees appear as crop circles from the sky. Video: Fox 6 surveys east Alabama damage

Neighborhoods in Wellington and Ohatchee received heavy damage, in some cases even wiped out.  The Robin's Mill subdivision in Ohatchee—a lakefront subdivision full of year-round and summer homes—was flattened.

James Weathington's house was one of only two still standing in the Robins Mill Road area, albeit with a lot of damage. Video: Damage reports and survivor stories from Calhoun County

"I was about to get in the shower and I heard it coming.  So I run, got under the stairwell in my daughter's bedroom and rode it out," he recalled.

Across the highway a bleaker picture: the last body to be recovered from the countywide recovery effort.  A woman's body turned up in a slough across Highway 77.  Her husband died in an area hospital the same day.

A St. Clair County family is mourning the death of their father Thomas Lee, 64, who died while bracing himself against his three-story house's front door. However, by doing so, he saved his wife and their 13 children who range in age from three to 27. Video: Father of 13 sacrifices himself for family

Families all over the area held on for dear life as the violent twister roared through their communities. The Smith family in Ohatchee is glad they are all alive and well, however they are mourning their aunt, Ruby Douthitt who lived across the street. Video: Family mourns death of woman from Ohatchee

One person died while taking shelter in the Mamre Baptist Church fellowship hall, and several others were injured.  The fellowship hall, which used to be the actual church, was flattened.  The new church, built across the street just off Highway 431 in Wellington, was very heavily damaged. Video: Members hold service in tornado-ravaged Calhoun County church

Many families moved into shelters or relatives homes, but one family in the Shoal Creek Road area of Ashville decided to stay put, even over night. They set up sleeping bags, built a fire and are keeping an eye out for looters. They say they can't leave behind what little they have left. Video: Families live in the dark to protect their homes

In the Reeds Mill Road area in Webster's Chapel, the Vice family is thankful that they all survived. Their family lived in the area for decades and the seven homes they built were all demolished.  Video: Calhoun family's decades long work gone in an instant 

"I am so fortunate and I really have worried and prayed for the people that were not as fortunate," Carol Vice said. "We're all here and we all have somewhere to go and there are some people out there who don't and let's all remember them and pray for them."

Another amazing story of survival after this tornado is of a Peeks Hill Road family. Two-months pregnant, Stephanie Lankford crawled down a ¾ of a mile long driveway to get help for her husband who was seriously injured and bleeding. Neighbors whose own homes were demolished came quickly and were able help the Lankfords who are fortunately doing okay. Video: Pregnant wife heroically saves her injured husband

In Moody, Fox 6 anchor Sarah Verser spoke with the city's police chief who said recovery in the area is coming along. A total of 822 structures in Moody alone were damaged in the tornado. Video: Moody recovers from storm damage


Slideshow from Calhoun County 
Slideshow from St. Clair County

 

Copyright 2011 WBRC. All rights reserved. 

 

 

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