MCALLA, Ala. (WIAT) – Residents living in the Bent Brook community didn’t have much warning before an EF-2 tornado touched down on their road.
Ben Allison, a former battalion chief with the Hoover Fire Department who lives there, told CBS42 that instead of hearing a siren he heard hail and his windows shattering. His family had about three seconds to get to their save place–which was only 15 feet away.
They didn’t even have time to grab the family dog.
It wasn’t until the damage had been done that Allison stepped out and heard the sirens go off.
Depending on who you ask in the neighborhood, they didn’t get a warning from the National Weather Service until minutes–or sometimes seconds–before the tornado was over their home.
Allison said that his smart phone and weather radio went off, but not soon enough.
“Gives me a new perspective now every time there is a severe thunderstorm,” he said.
The National Weather Service did have the area in an elevated risk before the tornado hit.
Crews were out on Wednesday to survey the damage.
“It was a very difficult forecast, and we were all waiting for the parameters to come together within the atmosphere,” explained Jim Stefkovich, Meteorologist-In-Charge of the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service. “We were unclear if they even would, initially, but once they did–literally the storm exploded and produced this very quick spin-up. So probably, there was not more than a couple of minutes of lead time from the time it was about to touch down to when we issued the warning.”
They believe the tornado’s path started .5 miles south/southeast of McAdory High School. The most severe damage they had seen was inside the neighborhood. They believe the wind speed got up to 125 miles per hour.
The NWS says the length of the tornado was 5.59 miles, with a width of 465 yard.
Stefkovich says it is not be unusual for a storm of this magnitude to have a path that spanned 5 to 15 miles.
“It’s a lesson that you might only have a minute or two to take action before severe weather hits,” he said. “You’ve got to be prepared right now–while the sky is blue and the sun is out. You need to know what to do in a moment’s notice.”
The tornado ended about 1.5 miles east/northeast of the Bessemer Airport.
No one in Allison’s family–including the dog–were injured.
However, the home is unlivable. The roof lifted off, ceilings caved in, and doors and windows blew off and shattered. There was a wind stream inside of the home that pushed debris and furniture out of place and ripped insulation from the walls.
The Allisons waited out the storm in their laundry room.
“I wish we had a little more time to prepare a bit more,” he said, “but when you think about it, the storm has got to start somewhere, and apparently, it picked this area to start.”