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The Alabama Tornadoes: April 2011

Updated on July 27, 2015

The Broken Heart of Dixie~~

On April 27, 2011, 62 tornadoes took 248 lives, injured more than 2000 people and severely impacted state and local economies in my home state of Alabama.

On April 29, 2011, I found myself sitting on my deck in the back yard of my home near Birmingham, Alabama. I was contemplating my great, good fortune.

About half an hour before, I watched the President on TV as he left Tuscaloosa on Air Force One after having toured that damaged and broken city. "He has visited this state a lot in the last year", I thought to myself. Remember the Gulf Oil Disaster that hit our state's beaches? Our hearts have been broken a lot.

The image (mine) to the left is of the front page of the Birmingham News on April 28th. It breaks my heart to see the destruction. My heart is healed by seeing a grandmother, like me, hugging her grand-baby, obviously tired, broken, yet----ALIVE!

FYI: the photo on the front page is by News photographer Jeff Roberts.

Click Ways to help disaster victims in the South, in Joplin, MO and OK--or all across the USA.! Takes you to links to the Red Cross , UMCOR and other organizations.

To Stay on top of the North Alabama (Methodist) Conference current disaster response needs and volunteer opportunities go to www.northalabamaumc.org or call 1-855-862-8657.

I have promised to give 100% of my royalties generated by this page to charity for Alabama Tornado Relief.

Alabama Highway 280 near Birmingham the morning of 4/27/2011
Alabama Highway 280 near Birmingham the morning of 4/27/2011

The Tornado Sirens Are Going Off!

Central Alabama awakens to Mother Nature's Wrath

My husband woke me at 5:30AM with the words: "The sirens are going off and it is headed this way." I groggily got out of bed, got quickly dressed, grabbed my purse and the laptop, and headed to the basement.

The electricity went out. That never happens in our neighborhood. I did not have time to make coffee!

Before I could even get comfortable in the dark, the sun came out. Quickly, the day turned into a muggy, sunshine spring-time teaser day.

Luckily, we have a small generator that we hooked up to the fridge in the kitchen and the smallest TV--the electricity was still off . Only one hour had passed and our day had only just begun.

My daughter a called me at 7:30AM to see if we were OK. She was on her way to work but had to turn around. Her path was blocked. Straight line winds had torn thru a southeastern neighborhood of the city called Cahaba Heights. All the major roads and highways in that section of Birmingham were blocked by huge trees and downed utility lines. State Highway 280 (6 lanes wide in some areas) looked like a war-zone. A church that a good friend attends was practically destroyed by falling trees. This is a very populated area and almost no one had power.

Little did we know that the end of the day would bring much more devastation to neighboring towns and cities.

(Image of Hwy 280 near Birmingham taken by a friend of my daughter on that fateful morning.)

Day of Devastation: a better look at the powerful photo on the front page of the News - This image is what I will remember about that stormy day.

How you can help!

The dramatic front page showing some of the aftermath of the storm. FYI: the photo on the front page is by News photographer Jeff Roberts

The Rest of my "Day of Devastation":

Did not know about Cullman Tornado until that evening!

Our power came back on around noon. The newscasters kept saying that we should be ready for more storms in the afternoon. It was really warm and muggy outside--a sure sign that a storm was brewing.

Around 3PM, the sun began to disappear and the wind started to whip the tree tops. I went around the yard and put up small objects that I felt might blow into windows and such. I closed the patio umbrella and tied up the wind chimes. Took a breather and had a small glass of white wine. (I tend to get really nervous when "weather" happens).

About 5PM, I turned on the news. Note: in Alabama, anytime there is a "tornado warning" issued, every station goes into "news" mode. All shows are put on the back burner and the weather anchors take control with their "Doplar Radar 1 million", Titan or StormAlert radar . When a warning was issued for Tuscaloosa, the station we were watching went to the "skycam" and we saw IT.

That is when I - again - began to gather the important stuff--small digital TV and aerial, purse, radio, candles, flashlights, wallet-- and head to the basement. The tornado was headed to our area. We stayed upstairs as long as we could watching the TV to keep track of the warnings. Then the power went out. My husband fired up the generator and we turned on the TV in the basement. As the reports, images and videos came over the airwaves, I decided to get my corkscrew just in case.

For three hours we were glued to the tube. My daughter who lives in NE Birmingham called and told me that they could see the storm from their front door. My son-in-law said they could feel the walls vibrate in their home. That was the tornado wreaking havoc in Fultondale and Pratt City. They wondered if we were OK.

The wind was still blowing outside our home. We saw another "supercell" heading our way even as we watched the Tuscaloosa "supercell" move into Georgia.

I have learned that almost every tornado storm in AL comes from Mississippi--from the Southwest and moves Northeast across the state. I have learned that if a storm comes toward Bham north of Tuscaloosa, it will continue to the north of Birmingham. If it originates on the south side of T-Town, it just might hit my area of town. You see, the Appalachian Mountains end SW of Birmingham. The range acts like the bow of a ship and cuts into the storm fronts creating a wedge. This is not exact science, but it has proven to be true most of the time.

Finally, about 9PM that night, we could relax. The power was still off, but could keep the fridge plugged in to the generator and head up stairs. Around 10PM the power came on and life could go back to normal.......

Until we woke up the next morning and saw the results of the tornado that cut Alabama to shreds.

The image of the twister is on the front page of The Birmingham News. The photographer: Chris Austin. It shows the tornado that almost leveled downtown Cullman, AL around 2:30 on that afternoon.

My story is not a dramatic one--it is just common. If you want to read about true drama during this day, then visit Twister's Path: A Struggle for Survival.


The Broken Heart of Dixie by Mickie_G is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

A Book about that "Day of Devastation" - and the aftermath of the tornadoes that swept the state of Alabama on April 27, 2011

Please consider buying this book to learn more about how an entire state came together to help those who were hurting.

Day of Devastation
Day of Devastation

A chronicle that documents April 27, 2011 and the aftermath.

 

Bo Jackson Explains Why He is Biking for Alabama Tornado Recovery

You can go to his website and make a donation. The bikes will be auctioned off at the end of the ride.

Bo Jackson continues his "ride". Want to read the story? Then click Bo Bikes Bama.

Additional Image Links to the Destruction - Photos of the damage to the state of Alabama in April 2011

In no way do you ever want to experience what a tornado can do to your home and neighborhood. Just look at the images in the links below to see what Mother Nature's tornadoes and strong storms can do to destroy your life.

Videos of the Alabama Tornadoes--Live!

Tuscaloosa Tornado Caught on Tape

Evening of April 27, 2011

Mark Prater , the weatherman shown in the image to the right, commented in a state of awe, "It's on the ground, and there's just nothing we can do to stop it."

You can read a well written article in the NY Times about the live videos on the day of this storm at Rare Footage Indeed: Tornadoes, in Real Time. This page has links to some amazing interactive images and a compilation of dramatic videos of the storms on that day. A powerful read!

Chilling Tuscaloosa Tornado Video

This video of the tornado gives me chills. It shows the power of this of this storm that tore across the state of Alabama.

I hope this link is working! I apologize if it is not.

Tuscaloosa Tornado: The closest you will see it:

Even more videos of the tornadoes across Alabama

The following link will take you to a compilation video created by The New York Times.

T-Town Tornado 4/15/2011--One week BEFORE the massive storm that made history!

I remember watching this live on the 15th. Can you believe that this happened one week earlier than the massive tornado on 4/27?

Pratt City/Fultondale, Alabama Tornado Damage

Northern Birmingham Storm Video:

This is the same tornado that hit Tuscaloosa.

Maps of the Tornado Damage and Devastation

Maps and Images of the Path of the April 27th twisters thru Alabama - Large Image is from the National Weather Service

Path of the Supercells from the National Weather Service
Path of the Supercells from the National Weather Service

Additional Maps of the path of the deadly storm across the south on April 27, 2011

Information about the storms across the southeast USA continues to pour in.

The Recovery:

Tornado Recovery Action Council - for the State of Alabama

In September of 2011, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley asked the Tornado Recover Action Council to take on the mission of identifying what went wrong, what went right, and what can be done in the future to save more lives, reduce the economic impact of storm destruction on communities and improve coordination between agencies. To read about what this council made up of private citizens learned, click the following link:

"Bama Rising" Video - It will break your heart.

"Bama Rising" is an organization that was dedicated to helping those who were hurt by the storms that raged across Alabama in 2011.

What is happening after the storm of April 27, 20ll?

Over one month after the "April Fury" in Alabama, the community is still feeling the hurt, but they are learning from the experience.

Professors are studying the storm damage to improve our understanding of how buildings hold up to tornadoes and high winds; the interest in storm cellars is booming; American Idols are giving free concerts to raise money for the victims; people are still helping their neighbors.

Read about how my beloved state of Alabama is responding to this natural disaster.

Read an inspiring story about someone who has volunteered to help with the recovery:

Well, click here to read about Noah a young, disabled Army veteran who wanted to help when tornadoes devastated the area. You will be amazed at what this young man did.

Tribute Video about April 27th in the state of Alabama: - The Alabama Tornado Damage will make you cry.

Moving video with images of the storms destruction across the state.

Storm Damage in Concord Alabama Birmingham News
Storm Damage in Concord Alabama Birmingham News

Ways to give to the disaster relief in the South and in Missouri:

Donations $$ or Time

Want to help the souls in Tuscaloosa? Then click /www.salvationarmy.com/usn/www_usn_2.nsf/vw-local/Ways-to-give" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Salvation Army (click here) is also taking donations for the victims of the tornadoes across the USA. Just mark your donation "Alabama Tornado Disaster 2011" or "Joplin Tornado 2011".

Find out how the United Methodist Church in the southeast is helping by clicking here. Here is a link that tells you how to give to tornado or weather disasters across the USA UMCOR (click here)page for the Spring Storms Relief. This donation will help in all the states where the tornadoes hit in the Southeast on April 27th and in Missouri.

The Birmingham News is keeping a running list (click here) of ways you can help, too.

Christy Jordan of "Southern Plate" fame has written a post about her area of Alabama, too. Click here to see more destruction in North Alabama and find ways to help out the victims in that area of the state.

Image is a screen shot from the Birmingham News

Town and Country Ford Pays It Forward - Bessemer, AL had damage from the storm, too.

My son-in-law is in this video. Town and Country Ford in Bessemer, AL gives back to the communities that were damaged on April 27, 2011.

On the Sunday after the storm, Kyle and my grandsons went shopping at Walmart to buy supplies for the victims in Concord, AL (near Bessemer). The dealership takes donations to that area as well as other damaged areas nearby. As of May 10, 2011 you can still drop off donations of water, household supplies, baby items, etc... and they will get it to where it needs to be.

This could prove to be a life saving product:

If you do not have a generator, then a battery operated TV is indispensable.

FYI: I am giving all the proceeds from this page to the American Red Cross for use in Alabama.

What is a "Supercell" tornado?

Find out from NOAA

We do not know what it feels like......

We do not know what it feels like......
We do not know what it feels like......

Send your wishes to the victims of this Historic and Horrific Disaster in the South:

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    • profile image

      Ruthi 3 years ago

      Oh my gracious! I cannot even imagine bracing myself for the possibility of this devastation approaching! Yes, I would have needed the corkscrew too! Thank Goodness you and your family were spared, but God bless those whose lives were destroyed in this tornadic tirade of Mother Nature.

    • profile image

      clickityclack 5 years ago

      Great lens!!! I live in Birmingham and will NEVER forget April 27, 2011. It is common for us to have severe weather in this area, including tornadoes, but I have never lived through a day like April 27th. We knew it would be a bad weather day, but no one could have been prepared for the ultimate devastation that spread across our state throughout the day. The helpless, gut-wrenching feeling I experienced that day in my basement while watching live video of a mile wide tornado literally obliterating parts of Birmingham as it headed DIRECTLY toward me, is one that I pray I never experience again.

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      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      OMG, my dear ... can we gals talk? Is it not the tornado that scares you silly? Well, I am a pretty brave kind of gal, but a tornado ... such powerfully horrific destruction. It kind of leaves me speechless ... kind of ...

    • profile image

      MorningShine 5 years ago

      A powerful story. Good job.

    • profile image

      ideadesigns 6 years ago

      Sorry that it hit so close to home. It's just sad all the devastation. So many storms this year. Everyone still cleaning up and will be for a long time. People really pull together and help out in these times. Praying for God's comfort and peace.

    • AngelDey profile image

      AngelDey 6 years ago

      I lived for 22 years in Alabama and Georgia and don't remember so much devastation. I remember only one year, really, when we suffered a bunch of damage but nothing like what seems to be happening more and more often. I live in the desert now and have had more rain and wet stuff than I've ever seen out here in the last two years. When people scoff at climate change, I get so mad because they clearly aren't paying attention.

    • MomTips profile image

      MomTips 6 years ago

      so sad!!I'm so sorry for them!

    • profile image

      jamesnodturft 6 years ago

      My heart breaks for these people.

    • jdwheeler profile image

      jdwheeler 6 years ago

      It is unreal. The pictures you see don't do it full justice. Pray for all those touched by this act of nature.

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 6 years ago

      i am so sorry to hear about this, it's really devastating.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      I was thinking of folk over there and, because I don't watch television or have a newspaper, I had seen no pictures. My thoughts are with those whose lives have been ripped apart by this natural devastation. Nature is a hard master.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      Well done lens. Last week in Raleigh, when we had ours, 4 kids were killed in one house.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      My sympathies to those who have lost loved ones and homes or businesses. We experienced a tornado in my hometown (Kansas) when I was in 5th grade. Sadly 13 people lost their lives that day. The power of a twister is awesome.

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