Severe storms damage Hartselle, Morgan County
A line of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes rolled through north Alabama Saturday, bringing down trees, fences and power lines and leaving portions of Morgan County without power.
The storms entered Alabama around 8 a.m. and reached Morgan County just before noon.
“Total average rainfall was anywhere from 1-2 inches,” said Jessica Chace, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Huntsville. “There were localized amounts of heavier rain in parts of the county, but on average most areas got about an inch and a half of precipitation.”
The line of storms produced wind gusts of nearly 60 miles per hours and produced dangerous clusters of cloud-to-ground lightning.
Mike Swafford, public information officer for the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department, said the storms kept the department busy all day.
“We responded to damage reports, blocked roads and downed power lines from one side of the county to the other,” he said.
Jason Smith, whose fence sustained damage on Cindy Street, said his family took precautions as soon as strongest part of the storm reached their residence.
“Once we heard the crack of the fence, we rushed into the closet,” Smith said. “It was less than a minute after the wind and rain really got going on our street.”
James and Linnie Peake lost power at their home near Danville school for nearly two hours but avoided significant damage.
“We have tree limbs down and some flooding in our shed and barn but nothing much more than that,” James said. “Our power tends to go out when the winds get around 40-50 miles per hour, so I assume that’s how hard it was blowing around noon Saturday.
“We’re thankful that this is the extent of it for us. I know others took on more damage around here, and I know that some people in the state got hit really hard.”
The storm system produced at least two tornadoes statewide, according to the National Weather Service. An EF-2 tornado struck Pickens County, with winds exceeding 130 miles per hour, while another EF-2 tornado hit near Brindlee Mountain Primary School in Marshall County.
That storm had winds near 120 miles per hour and did heavy damage to the school, which will remain closed for the time being.
Approximately 100,000 Alabamians lost power because of the storms.
“This weather has been crazy lately,” said community member Linnie Peake. “It feels much more like spring than winter, and I don’t like it. We’re thankful here, and we’re praying for those that weren’t as luck as us.”
Chace said the recent pattern of severe weather is not uncommon for north Alabama.
“It’s not normal, but it’s also not rare,” she said. “In the southeastern United States, we tend to go through periods where the large-scale patterns gather and give us more mild winters. This increases the likelihood of heavy rains and severe thunderstorms. That possibility always exists, but this type of pattern increases the probability.”
Chace also said the spring-like weather doesn’t negate the opportunity of wintry weather coming back into the area.
“We are just now moving into what would typically be the coldest part of the year,” she said. “The end of January and beginning of February is when we tend to see those arctic-style bursts that give us the winter weather. In my experience –even though we’ve experienced the mild winter – we could still see those bursts of winter weather.”