Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Anderson Hills F4 Tornado

Thirteen years ago this week:

On May 18, 1995, an F4 tornado struck Limestone and Madison counties in the Tennessee Valley of North Alabama.

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/hun/stormsurv...

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/hun/stormsurv...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anderson...

http://www.digitalradiance.com/anders...

http://www.talkweather.com/forums/lof...

In 1995, I followed the Anderson Hills tornado through Limestone County. I was one of the first on the scene of a major disaster at a trailer park northeast of Athens. I remember carrying a man out on a door who was bleeding from his neck and chest as I left the scene.

Storm survey data from the NWS:

The Anderson Hills Tornado struck Huntsville, Alabama on May 18, 1995, killing one person and causing extensive damage and devastation, including the destruction of the Anderson Hills subdivision. It was rated an F4 when it made a direct hit on the subdivision. The tornado touched down just northwest of Athens. It tracked from that point through eastern Limestone County, through Harvest, Meridianville, and New Market in northern Madison County, Alabama, and ended near Princeton in northwest Jackson County, Alabama. The strongest portion of the tornado's path was near Harvest in northwest Madison County around the Anderson Hills subdivision and the Huntsville Dragway, which is the reason it is usually referred to as the "Anderson Hills Tornado".

The tornado first touched down at 5:33 p.m. approximately three miles northwest of Athens, just east of Alabama Highway 99. The tornado moved across Alabama Highway 127, then across I-65 near the interchange with U.S. Highway 31. From there, the tornado strengthened as it continued east, crossing Alabama Highway 251, where it destroyed 13 mobile homes at the Oakdale Mobile Home Park. At this point of devastation, one person received major injuries from the tornado and died two days later; Chuck Dale, 30 years of age, was the one fatality of the tornado. Around this time, a Tornado Warning was issued for Madison County to give residents on the northwest side of the county an opportunity to take cover; tornado sirens were activated at 5:43 p.m., one minute after the warning was issued. Meanwhile, the tornado began to move slightly north of east, moving across Mooresville Road and crossing through the Copeland community near the intersection of Copeland Road and East Limestone Road. It continued to strengthen as it crossed over Limestone Creek and approached the Madison County line. Overall in Limestone County, 35 buildings were damaged or destroyed, and 26 mobile homes were destroyed. Around 9,500 customers lost electricity in the county, where damage was estimated to be $1.5 million.

The tornado crossed into Madison County around 5:50 p.m. on Love Branch Road, just north of the Yarborough Road intersection. It continued an east-northeasterly path across Carroll Road, Old Railroad Bed Road, and Wall Triana Highway, crossing just south of Harvest Elementary School. At 5:52 p.m., Madison County Fire dispatch reported that the tornado was on the ground near Harvest. It crossed Fords Chapel Road before taking a direct hit on the Anderson Hills subdivision along Alabama Highway 53. At this point, the tornado was at F4 intensity and the subsequent survey would also reveal evidence of it having multiple vortices. A total of 39 well-constructed houses in the subdivision sustained major damage, and 21 were destroyed. The Piggly Wiggly along Highway 53 also received damage. At 5:54 p.m., the Madison County Sheriff's Department confirmed the tornado had crossed Old Railroad Bed Road and Alabama Highway 53. As a result of these reports, tornado sirens were reactivated in Madison County one minute later. The tornado continued east-northeast making a glancing blow to the Huntsville Dragway before crossing Quarter Mountain Road and Bollweevil Lane on the northern face of Quarter Mountain. Next it crossed Hammond Lane (where is caused major damage to a few two story brick homes), Beaver Dam Road, Beaverdam Creek, and Pulaski Pike. It moved over Beaverdam Creek a second time at Mount Lebanon Road as it moved into the Meridianville area, then across Patterson Lane. Shortly after 6:00 p.m., the tornado crossed U.S. Highway 231/431 at Steger Curve - around Brier Fork bridge. Here, substantial damage was done to a cotton gin and a large farm house was spun off its foundation.

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Part Two:

2 comments:

Storm Chasing Mikey said...

Wow Mike...that F4 was a monster wedge!!!

Mike said...

It sure was Mikey. I'll never forget that day. I missed actually seeing it by about 1 or two minutes. I drove up and an 18 wheeler had just overturned and power lines were down near Athens, Alabama.

When I turned up the road following the tornado, I came up on the Oakdale trailer park and had to assist in rescue efforts, being the first one from outside in the area. I'll never forget what I saw that day.

It was awful.