published Thursday, March 21st, 2013

DeKalb County cleaning up after 'no-notice' tornadoes

While Goe Cruz, right, watches, Crossville (Ala.) High School student Madison Denton sets up cots Wednesday in the tornado-damaged Cruz home in the Kilpatrick community on Sand Mountain. Also pictured are students Daniel Schafelberger, left rear, and Nicole Minor.
While Goe Cruz, right, watches, Crossville (Ala.) High School student Madison Denton sets up cots Wednesday in the tornado-damaged Cruz home in the Kilpatrick community on Sand Mountain. Also pictured are students Daniel Schafelberger, left rear, and Nicole Minor.
Photo by John Rawlston.

ENHANCED FUJITA SCALE CLASSIFICATIONS

Classification — Wind speed

EF0 —65 to 85 mph (weak)

EF1 —86 to 110 mph (weak)

EF2 — 111 to 135 mph (strong)

EF3 — 136 to 165 mph (strong)

EF4 — 166 to 200 mph (violent)

EF5 — 200+ mph (violent)

Source: National Weather Service

Crews and property owners are cleaning up after a pair of confirmed EF2 tornadoes and high, straight-line winds struck DeKalb and Marshall counties in Alabama on Monday, injuring seven people and displacing as many as 70.

DeKalb EMA Director Anthony Clifton said most of the people left without homes or damage serious enough that their homes are unlivable are in the Kilpatrick community, west of Crossville, near the Marshall County line.

Clifton called the storms "no-notice" tornadoes.

A second tornado was confirmed near Fyffe, damaging several chicken houses, a farm building, a restaurant and a mobile home, officials said.

A little east of the storm path through Fyffe, high winds slammed into the Heil Corp.'s plant in Fort Payne and Fort Payne High School, causing roof damage at Heil and damaging metal walkway canopies and the roof at the high school, Clifton said.

"There were no fatalities and no serious injuries," he said. "We had six people who went to the hospital by personal vehicle and one taken by ambulance from DeSoto State Park. They were all treated and released."

A shelter established at Crossville High School gave Kilpatrick folks a place to stay Monday night, he said. Search and rescue efforts continued through Monday night to make sure residents were accounted for after the storm.

Countywide, Clifton said, about 25 mobile homes were destroyed, 12 conventional homes left unlivable and about 30 conventional homes heavily damaged.

Another 100 or so structures such as barns, farm outbuildings and the like also were damaged, he said.

National Weather Service officials in Huntsville, Ala., had survey teams on the ground Tuesday to assess damage, meteorologist Kurt Weber said Wednesday.

"The two teams went out yesterday and looked at both areas [of major damage]. One was centered over Cullman County and the other was centered over DeKalb and eastern Marshall," Weber said.

Weather service surveys show the two twisters that hit DeKalb were EF2 storms with winds of 120 to 125 mph.

The 220-yard-wide tornado that hit the Kilpatrick community touched down in Marshall County east of Albertville near Hamby Road and tracked eastward, the survey shows.

The other tornado touched down west of Fyffe and north of County Road 50 along County Road 539 and tore its way east to Tumlin Road, leaving a damaged restaurant roof, chicken houses, farm buildings and a flattened carport in its wake, reports state. Two large, well-built farm buildings were destroyed, one of which had metal trusses that were "ripped out of the ground," surveys state.

Collinsville High School in the south end of the county had minor damage, while Fort Payne High School in the county seat had significant damage from straight-line winds of between 90 and 105 mph, weather service and local officials said.

In nearby Crossville, high school agriculture science teacher Jason Jackson had a group of students, some storm victims, helping Kilpatrick residents clean up and dry out Wednesday.

Jackson said about half of Crossville High School's student population comes from Kilpatrick, a largely Hispanic rural community.

Since many of the students were affected directly or indirectly by the storm, the school's Future Farmers of America members banded together to help on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jackson said.

On Tuesday, about 150 students participated in the effort, but the number dropped to about 35 Wednesday as school got back into swing, he said.

Folks in Kilpatrick still need help, he said.

"From where I'm standing, I can see 25 structures that are damaged," Jackson said Wednesday over his cellphone. "There's a lot of displaced families.

"Some of them are sleeping in their cars instead of going to a shelter," he said of residents who are worried about looters and losing what's left of their belongings.

Clifton is worried that the total damage from the storms won't meet federal guidelines to receive assistance as a disaster area, but there are no firm damage estimates yet.

Meanwhile, affected residents need help, he said.

"A lot of church groups are helping and others are calling to make preparations to come help," Clifton said. "The hard part is to get people who need the help to the people who are offering help."

For now, DeKalb officials are telling storm-stricken residents to call the county Emergency Management Agency office at 256-845-8569 until officials can establish a dedicated number for storm assistance.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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