CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

January 31, 2013

Early morning warnings put residents on edge

By David Palmer
The Cullman Times

WINSTON COUNTY — Gordon Grooms heard the early-morning clatter of a powerful storm from his home. He knew something was damaged.

A few miles away, Larry Lee was up at his Sardis community home in Winston County watching the weather radar on television. He had opened his front door to look out and went to kitchen for a moment when a powerful wind ripped off the storm door and shot a burst of rain through the house.

At just after 5:40 a.m., the full force of Wednesday morning’s powerful storm system was pounding Winston County and making its way into Cullman County.

Not long after daybreak, both men — Grooms and Lee — were receiving phone calls that something important to them had been damaged by the storm.

For Grooms, the caretaker of the Addison Municipal Airport, he arrived at work to find a large hangar flatted and four airplanes damaged.

“I live not far from the airport,” Grooms said. “I heard the noise and knew something had happened; I just didn’t it was the hangar until I got a call later and I came down and found this.”

What Grooms discovered was a relatively new hangar leveled and 1,300-pound airplanes turned upside down, and even one dumped down a ridge.

“The airplanes are owned by different people,” Grooms said. “The value of the planes can range from $20,000 to $65,000 for this type.”

Lee found a similar scene at the church he attends. Just a short distance from the airport, Sardis Missionary Baptist Church’s steeple had been blown off. Lee said damage to the building’s interior was minor, but the parsonage nearby suffered roof damage and leaks into the interior.

“You can see the path of the wind along this road (Airport Road). It hit hard and damaged the roofs on a few more places along the way,” Lee said.

Barbara Hutcheson, whose husband Phillip is a church elder, said worship services will continue, despite the damages.

“Our minister was not living in the parsonage. We’ve been using the facility for other church activities, but water did come in after the roof was damaged. It was fully furnished,” Hutcheson said.

The worst of the early morning storm focused on Winston County in the immediate region. That county’s Emergency Management Agency director, James Burnett, said damages were even worse in the Houston community around Smith Lake.

“A lot of trees were snapped in half and fell on roof tops around town. They lost power and a lot of the roads were blocked,” Burnett said.

Burnett said no determination of whether a tornado or straight-line winds caused the damage.

“It’s hard to say at this time; that’s something the National Weather Service will determine. I heard from an officer who believes he saw a funnel and he reported that it nearly picked his car up,” Burnett said.

Cullman County EMA director Phyllis Little said the damages around the area could have been caused by a small tornado or straight-line winds.

“In one area, it looks like straight-line winds because of the way the damage occurred. But over in Houston, it may have been a small tornado. To me, what really matters, is that some people suffered damages to their homes. That’s what we’re concerned about. It’s really sad when people lose their homes,” Little said.



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