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The sleepy little town of Hanceville Alabama would get a very rude awakening on the morning of April 27th 2011. Mother nature sent a wake up call in the form of a tornado that none here will soon forget.

 

The date was April 27th 2011 on a Wednesday, little did I know that on this day many of our lives would be forever changed. I got up at four thirty am as I always do and began to get ready for work. As I milled around the house in my usual morning daze I flipped on the TV to check the weather. To my surprise the county next to mine was under a tornado warning and by all indications it was heading in our general direction. I decided then I had better go ahead and wake my wife so that she could keep an eye on the pending bad weather as it was nearly time for me to leave for work.

The particular storm we were watching come toward us seemed to be moving very fast, with every sweep of the radar it inched a little closer. I decided that I might better get moving otherwise I was going to be driving to work right in the middle of this thing. I did stop by a small gas station for just a minute to get a coffee and realized that the employees had no idea that a tornado was only one county over and heading our way. I let them know what was going on and heard their police scanner come on as I walked out the door.

I am fortunate to work only four miles from my home so in just a few minutes I arrived at work. As usual on a Wednesday morning many employees were gathered outside our break room either smoking or drinking coffee and waiting for time to clock in and go to work. The buzz on this morning was definitely the weather and all the speculation of what might or might not happen. We didn’t speculate long…within minutes the tornado sirens went off and we were all took to our facilities safe place to ride out the storm.

While we were waiting for the storm to either hit or pass we heard from a small weather radio that the tornado was indeed on the ground. It was headed in our direction at a high rate of speed, possibly traveling up to seventy miles an hour. We knew that at that rate of speed if that were true this storm would pack a terrific punch. Intense wind and extreme hail pounded our building for a few minutes just before lighting struck the building and we lost power. When the lighting struck it sounded as if a cannon had been fired right above our heads…needless to say it was extremely loud and unnerving. And then as quickly as it came it was gone. Our business had been spared. We would soon learn however that many of our neighbors weren’t quite so lucky.

A call soon came in that the highway in front of our plant was blocked by a downed tree. My boss and I having been heavy equipment operators for years jumped on our front end loaders and headed off to see if we could help. What we found we weren’t really prepared for. There wasn’t just one tree blocking the highway but about ten and as we looked north into the little city of Hanceville Alabama we realized that’s where the actual tornado had gone through.

With a job at hand we set about removing trees and debris from the highway so that traffic and emergency vehicles could get through. Some of these trees were pretty big and took both machines pushing and straining to get them out of the way. It was on our last tree we were to push that our excitement level rose once again…there was a car under this one. As we got closer we saw that not only was there a car…it was a police car and that there were power lines tangled in with it. Worried that someone might still be trapped inside we chose to go in and make sure the officer was ok. To our relief no-one was in the vehicle and we found out a little later that he was ok.

We decided to remain on the scene and direct traffic until law enforcement was able to take over…which was nearly two hours later. This was to prove to be a very hectic and busy day which I will get into in my next article…so stay tuned!