Carbon Hill Tornado...November 10, 2002

The Carbon Hill Tornado was the first tornado of the evening. It began in Fayette County at 6:52 pm, about 5.6 miles north-northwest of the city of Fayette, and 2.8 miles west of US Highway 43. The tornado moved on a northeast track crossing US 43, State Route 129, and SR 13, and then moved into Walker County just southwest of Carbon Hill at 7:10 pm.

It then crossed the western and northern sections of Carbon Hill, downing trees and power lines and damaging many residential structures. Carbon Hill Elementary School was also heavily damaged. The tornado continued northeast, crossing SR5, and exited the county at SR 195. The two deaths associated with this tornado occurred just south of SR 195.

Entering Winston County at 7:31 pm, the tornado continued on a northeast path traveling across mostly sparsely populated areas of Bankhead National Forest and several fingers of Smith Lake. It crossed County Road 41 about 1.8 miles south of Arley and then crossed CR 12, finally lifting at 7:45 pm.

This tornado was rated an F3 on the Fujita scale, with winds estimated to be in the 150 to 200 mph range. Much of the damage along the track was lesser intensity (F1 and F2). However, tornadoes are rated based on the most serious damage at any point along the track. F3 damage occurred in both Fayette and Walker Counties.

Total path length for the Carbon Hill Tornado was 44.3 miles, with a width of 1175 yards. Four deaths were reported with this tornado, three in the Rose Hill community area of Walker County and one near Arley in Winston County, with approximately 38 injuries associated with this tornado, 3 in Fayette County, 20 in Walker County, and 15 in Winston County.

Structural damage details are difficult to report since reporting is based primarily by county and not be individual tornado. Based on emergency management and Red Cross reports, structures damaged or destroyed were approximately 47 in Fayette County, 135 in Walker County, and 35 in Winston County.

Tornado Watch Number 748 was issued at 4:35 pm. A Tornado Warning was issued for Fayette County at 6:29 pm, for Walker County at 7:00 pm, and for Winston County at 7:07 pm.

Special thanks goes to WHNT-TV Channel 19 in Huntsville, for the generous use of their helicopter for an aerial survey of the entire path.

Thumbnail images below link to full sized images. All photos were taken by National Weather Service personnel.

Damage in Fayette County
A home damaged in northern Fayette County.
Damage in Fayette County
More residential and tree damage in Fayette County.
Damage in Fayette County
Another view of the damage in Fayette County.
Damage on north side of Carbon Hill
Damage on the north side of Carbon Hill, in Walker County.
Damage northeast of Carbon Hill
Damage northeast of Carbon Hill.
Carbon Hill Elementary School
Carbon Hill Elementary School.
Damage around Smith Lake
Damage in the Smith Lake area of southern Winston County.
Damage around Smith Lake
More damage around Smith Lake.
Damage near Arley
Damage near Arley, in Winston County.
  Map of the damage path
Map of the 46 mile long damage path.

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