CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

March 18, 2013

(WITH VIDEO) Storm topples trees, damages homes; thousands could be without power for days (UPDATED)

By David Palmer and Ashley Graves
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — A powerful afternoon storm raced across Cullman County, downing trees and power lines and damaging structures.

Power outages were widespread throughout the county, leaving Cullman County Electric Co-op to request assistance from other agencies to restore power according to Co-op spokesperson Brian Lacy. By nightfall, he estimated as many as 12,845 were without power as a result of Monday afternoon’s severe storms.

“With the way the storms came acorss, Joe Wheeler and most other Co-ops are dealing with the same issue,” Lacy said. “There are a lot of broken power poles and wires, and trees on power lines all across the area. It’s very widespread, though the southern part of Cullman and Winston counties were the most impacted.

Lacy anticipated it could be days before all power is restored.

“We have crews that are working into the night, and anticipate it taking all day Tuesday, if not longer, before everything is back on.”

Emergency Management Agency officials are continuing to assess damage.

The storm powered into Cullman County before 3 p.m., causing many schools to delay school buses as high winds began toppling trees and power lines, and threatening to overturn vehicles.

Wallace State Community College in Hanceville reported a power outage and debris strewn across the campus. College spokesperson Kristen Holmes said classes would be delayed until 10 a.m. today. She said an assessment of the damaging was continuing.

Initial reports of storm damage came from Crane Hill and Logan, where responders were stalled by dangerous winds and falling trees and power lines. There were also reports of numerous structures, from homes to chicken houses, damaged by falling trees and winds.

Areas around Smith Lake were also impacted, with trees blocking roads and several homes damaged by wind and tree limbs. Between Berlin and Holly Pond on County Road 783, a house trailer was blown from its foundation, and laying on its side when responders from the Berlin Fire Department arrived on scene. After assessing the situation, it was determined no one was inside.

Fire departments, law enforcement officers ,and road and power crews continued to report widespread road blockage and  downed power lines throughout the evening.

No serious injuries were reported from the storm.

A severe thunderstorm warning was reported in Cullman County around 2:30 p.m. The storm rapidly intensified and quickly moved through Good Hope, Hanceville, Cullman and Holly Pond, and numerous unincorporated areas.

“We’ve been into some areas where it looks like a small tornado was involved, and then a short distance away it looks like straight-line winds,” Little said. “I wouldn’t be able to say at this time, but we were expecting winds of 60 to 70 miles  per hour with this storm, and we certainly got that.”

County school superintendent Billy Coleman said school buses were held up as the storm intensified. Students at many schools remained in place until the storm passed. The buses were able to pick up children later, but some of their routes were changed because of road blockage.

Coleman also said power was out at Good Hope School Monday evening.

In Good Hope, Mayor Corey Harbison reported damage at a Shell station and the Waffle House, as well as several other areas in the city.

“We have some property damage and a lot of trees that are blocking the roadway,” Harbison said. “Most of the damage was confined to the northeast side of 65. There are no injures that I know of.”

Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail said damage was caused in several locations by trees and power lines. He also said a vehicle traveling on U.S. 31 at Johnsons Crossing was apparently swept off the road by high winds. He said he driver was rescued but did not require medical treatment.



* David Palmer may be contacted at dpalmer@cullmantimes.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 213.

* Ashley Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 225, or by email at agraves@cullmantimes.com