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County suffers some EF-2 tornado damage
By Christa Jennings
A shed appears to almost float among the trees with other structure damage also observed hanging in trees where the EF-2 tornado came through Coosa County. Photo by EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson
Some boathouses along Lake Mitchell such as this one were damaged or completely destroyed as a result of the tornado. Photo by EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson
A roof from one residence was blown some 100-plus yards away during the EF-2 tornado near Lake Mitchell. Photo by EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson
Numerous hardwood and softwood trees were downed and limbs snapped during the tornado last week. Photo by EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson
This map from the U.S. National Weather Service of Birmingham shows the tracks of the 11 confirmed tornadoes from last Thursday.
While mostly spared, a portion of Coosa County did suffer some damage from a tornado last Thursday night.
The county had no tornadoes come through it on March 17, when there were 25 tornadoes statewide. However, last Thursday when the state had 11 confirmed tornadoes as of press time, one did enter the county from Chilton County.
Those 11 tornadoes included four EF-3 tornadoes, three EF-2 tornadoes, three EF-1 tornadoes, and one EF-0 tornado. Unfortunately last week’s tornadoes resulted in numerous injuries and five fatalities, as well as significant damage along the paths of the most intense tornadoes.
The National Weather Service reported that most of the severe thunderstorms last Thursday were cyclic, meaning that multiple tornadoes were produced by the same storm. Additionally, it reported that the “most stunning tornado of the event” was the long-track tornado that “carved a path of damage spanning 80.38 miles over its 98-minute lifespan from Hale to Shelby counties.”
This was a single tornado, which put it at seventh place in the ranking for the longest single tornado track in the state.
Coosa County’s severe thunderstorms last Thursday included an EF-2 tornado with an estimated peak wind of 115-120 miles per hour. The tornado had a path length of 13.94 miles and a maximum path width of 800 yards, according to the National Weather Service.
Referred to as the “Lake Mitchell Tornado,” it began at 9:01 p.m. at Cooper in Chilton County and ended at 9:21 p.m. at Lyle in Coosa County, a community located north of Richville.
Fortunately, there were no fatalities or injuries from that tornado. However, there was some tree and structural damage.
The National Weather Service reported that the tornado formed near the intersection of Chilton County roads 495 and 490, just east of the Interstate-65 and Highway 31 interchange southeast of Clanton.
The tornado then tracked northeastward, downing trees and causing shingle damage in eastern Chilton County. The tornado proceeded to cross Lake Mitchell into Coosa County, strengthening into an EF-2 tornado.
A few residences near the lake on Little Airplane Road suffered roof damage, with large sections of one roof being removed from a residence on Bluff Road.
The tornado continued northeastward, downing trees along various inlets of Lake Mitchell and breaking limbs along the way before dissipating just east of the intersection of Coosa County roads 29 and 118, in the Lyle community.
Coosa County EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson said that at that point the tornado rotation was still there, but that the tornado did not touch down again until it reached Clay County. He explained that at that time it hit the “right formula of atmosphere,” and once reaching those favorable atmospheric conditions, it touched down again.
After the tornado warning was cleared for Coosa County Thursday night, Hutcherson and Chief Deputy George Long went to County Road 121 and began cutting trees to make their way to the residential area. Rockford and Richville volunteer fire departments also responded to provide assistance and help cut trees out of the roadway.
Eventually they reached a point where powerlines were down and had to stop until the electric company could handle those. The next morning Hutcherson said they went back out for damage assessments.
As of press time, he reported that there had been some extent of damage to at least 20 houses, primarily in the County Road 121 area. That included damage to houses, roofs, sheds, and boathouses.
However, since then Hutcherson said he had also heard there was some damage at Mimosa Point and Mallard Cove, as well. Therefore he will be conducting more damage assessments Monday, with some likely being conducted by boat, to assess any additional damage.
Preliminary data indicates that there was substantial tree damage, with numerous hardwood and softwood trees snapped, along Little Airplane Road, County Road 121 and Bluff Road. Numerous houses along Little Airplane Road sustained roof and structural damage, with one right along the lakefront sustaining more substantial damage.
Preliminary data also reflected that a home along Bluff Road appeared to have lost much of its roof, top floor and walls. At that point the tornado reached its maximum intensity of EF-2 and continued to move northeast along the far southern extent of Lake Mitchell, producing tree damage and some structural damage along the lakeshore.
The tornado then weakened notably as it moved east of Lake Mitchell with more minor tree damage noted along County Road 29. The tornado proceeded to snap some limbs along County Road 188 before lifting just east of Herb Valley Drive.
This preliminary data may be added to and further damage noted depending on the outcome of Hutcherson’s additional damage assessments.
After two consecutive weeks of severe weather and numerous tornadoes, the state of Alabama will catch a break in the weather with sunny days expected for the next week.