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January 31, 2013

Early-morning storm causes scattered problems

A string of early-morning storms hammered Cullman County on Wednesday, knocking out power and causing scattered damage and flooding.

More than 2,100 residents were without power during the storm’s peak between 5-6 a.m., mostly in the Addison coverage area in Winston County. Cullman Electric Cooperative officials said downed trees and a concentrated strike around the Addison Municipal Airport knocked many Winston County residents off line. Scattered areas of Cullman County were also without power for several hours.

EMA officials received reports of downed trees in several locations across the county. The roof of a barn was reportedly blown away on County Road 1253 and a church in Sardis was also damaged. The county remained under tornado watches for much of the morning, with new alerts issued until approximately 8 a.m.

Both local school systems delayed the start of classes Wednesday as a precaution, though the city was under way by 10 a.m. and the county followed suit at 11 a.m. Wallace State Community College delayed until 10 a.m.

When the storm hit Hanceville — a city that sustained heavy damage in the April, 2011 tornado outbreak — Mayor Kenneth Nail said more than 250 people flocked to the city’s three new storm shelters in the early morning hours. The storm was reportedly moving at 70 miles per hour as warnings came into the city.

“We opened the shelters at 9 p.m. [Tuesday] night. By the time the first warning came through people started coming in,” Nail said. “We’re hoping to get two more of these to add convenience for residents. It can be hard to get to a shelter if they’re too far from your home. We would like to have more so that we can cover more areas of town.”

Cullman Emergency Management Agency Assistant Director Kelly Allen said winds at ground level topped 40 miles per hour in many areas. City of Cullman street department crews scrambled to clear downed trees from St. Joseph Avenue and Scenic Lane in the wee morning hours, while also unstopping clogged water drains to prevent flash flooding.

 “This was a fast-moving storm. It was coming through so fast, it was difficult to keep up with,” Allen said. “You hate for anyone to suffer damage, but if this is the worst of it, we can be thankful when you consider the size and strength of what came through the area.”

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