Alabama ties, maybe broke, 18-year-old state tornado record

By: The Birmingham (AL) News
By: The Birmingham (AL) News

With 10 days left in the month, Alabama has tied an 18-year-old state record for most tornadoes in February, according to a weather service database.

In February 1990, Alabama had 11 tornadoes - the same number the state had in the first 18 days of this month.

At least four tornadoes struck parts of Alabama Sunday, injuring 52 people. On Feb. 6, seven tornadoes hit north Alabama, killing five people.

However, as officials with the National Weather Service continue their assessment of Sunday's storm damage, it's possible the state has already broken the record, said meteorologist Tara Golden.

"The four that were reported Sunday were near the metro area," Golden said. There may have been more tornadoes in other parts of the state, she said.

The threat of tornadoes will increase in the coming weeks, according to meteorologist Scott Unger.

"We're seeing them a little bit early this year," Unger said. But tornadoes could become more frequent as spring approaches, bringing warm air from the south and cold air from the north, he said.

The tornado that struck Prattville Sunday was an EF-3 class tornado, according to a report released Monday by the National Weather Service. The EF or enhanced Fujita scale gauges tornado strength from the weakest, EF-0, to the most powerful, EF-5.

That tornado left a path of damage 450 yards wide, according to the NWS. The length of its path had not been determined Monday.

It is estimated that 200 homes and 40 businesses were damaged or destroyed. Hundreds of trees were downed by the wind, which reached 150 mph. Fifty people were injured, four of them critically.

In Chilton County, storm damage - which included 300 downed trees and 15 damaged buildings - was caused mostly by winds and not a tornado.

However, an area east of the interstate was hit by an EF-1 tornado with winds estimated to have reached 110 mph.

In Dallas County, an EF-2 tornado hit an area seven miles long and 150 yards wide. That tornado destroyed seven homes and two businesses, but no injuries were reported. In Pike County, an EF-1 tornado damaged a home and a church. There were no injuries.

Two people were injured in Russell and Coffee Counties, according to Yasamie Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. Four of those hurt in Autauga County were critically injured, she said.

The tornadoes were part of a system that swept across the Southeast on Sunday, damaging homes in parts of Georgia and the Florida Panhandle, as well as Alabama.

The violent weather continued into early Monday, when a tornado ripped apart a house in Hookerton, N.C., slightly injuring three people. Scattered damage to buildings and trees was reported elsewhere in North Carolina.

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