Tornado touches down in Honoraville area

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Several families had an abrupt and rude awakening on Tuesday morning, when a tornado spawned from Tropical Storm Bill as it passed through the area, struck several homes in Honoraville in North Crenshaw County.

One brick home was completely destroyed on New Ebenezer Road, and nine others received moderate to severe damage when a tornado came and hit without warning.

&uot;We were under a tornado watch, which means that conditions were favorable for tornadoes to be produced when it hit,&uot; said Anita West, director of Crenshaw County Emergency Management Agency (EMA). &uot;It struck at about 5 a.m., and there wasn't enough time to put out a warning before it went into Montgomery County. In that brief period of time, it moved from Covington County, through Honoraville and into Montgomery, where a warning was issued as it hit in the Pintlala area.&uot;

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Johnny Reese, 48, and his father Ned, 90, were in their beds when the storm hit.

&uot;The rain, thunder and lightning already had awakened me,&uot; said Johnny Reese. &uot;Then the lights went out n I got up from my bed as the roof was lifted from the house, and then everything was perfectly still.&uot;

As he got up, the wind started blowing him around the room, Reese said.

&uot;Then as quickly as I got to my doorway and headed for my father's room, the outside brick wall collapsed onto my bed,&uot; he said. &uot;If I had been in my room, a wall would have fallen on me.&uot;

Reese, who had just returned last Friday from a vacation in Michigan, said he had to force his way into his father room.

&uot;I picked him up and carried him out,&uot; he said. &uot;God works in mysterious ways n he brought me back home so I would be here to help my daddy.&uot;

Reese said his father, who uses a cane to get around, was already awake in his bed.

&uot;By the time we got outside, the tornado was gone,&uot; he said.

Within 90 seconds, it was all over.

Reese said he and his father have insurance coverage to take care of the damage.

&uot;The home and contents are just material things,&uot; he said. &uot;Houses can be replaced. Thank God we are alright. People should quit taking things for granted, because we never know n our lives could be gone in no time at all.&uot;

Next door, Mary and Jessie Harris felt a divine presence as well.

&uot;We were already awake, and had to wake up my daughter and grandbaby,&uot; Mary Harris said. &uot;We got into the closet in the bathroom. It sounded like a roaring whistle from a train, and then the rain started pouring down.&uot;

Harris said although she did not see the tornado hit the Reese house, she heard it.

&uot;It sounded like really loud popcorn popping as it hit their house,&uot; she said. &uot;We never saw the funnel from the storm, but we did see the cloud going away. Then it was over.&uot;

The Harris home received heavy damage to the roof and ceiling, and one room.

They had recently begun replacing shingles on the roof from previous storms.

&uot;The room affected by the storm has quite a history,&uot; she said. &uot;There was a fire in the room years ago, and we were fixing it from that when Hurricane Opal struck in '95, messing it up again.&uot;

County Commissioner Ricky McElwain, whose district includes Honoraville, said he came out as soon as West called him.

&uot;I had a very uneasy feeling going through the neighborhood, following the path of the storm,&uot; McElwain said. &uot;But now I feel better, knowing that no one was seriously injured.&uot;

According to West, one area resident was taken to her personal physician after the storm, due to a bump she received on her head. The woman is pregnant, and she and her daughter were in a mobile home that was destroyed by the storm.

West said she called the Mobile, Ala. office of the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Bureau.

&uot;I called them on my Southern Linc to tell them that we had a tornado touch down,&uot; she said. &uot;They tried saying that it couldn't have been a tornado, that it was straight line winds.' I told them that I knew the difference n straight line winds lay trees down, but a tornado twists them, while destroying everything in its path, throwing houses, vehicles, anything it touches around.&uot;

West said the storm actually first came through south and west of the Harris and Reese homes on Mothershed Road.

&uot;It did a good bit of damage to several structures and property on Mothershed Road, then touched down at the Reese house, and lifted again, before hitting a mobile home on Faulk Road,&uot; she said. &uot;Then it lifted again, and went on to Montgomery County.&uot;

Crews from South Alabama Electric Cooperative, Asplundh Tree Service, the Crenshaw County Highway Department, and the American Red Cross, which sent a disaster relief truck, all converged on the area, providing assistance to the community.

&uot;You just never know when something like this is going to happen n it makes you want to be right with God,&uot; said Ned Reese.