North and Central Alabama have had numerous tornado occurrences over the years. In fact, the Birmingham County Warning Area (CWA) has an annual average of about 17 tornadoes based on data from 1961 through 2001. (Please note the Birmingham CWA has changed geographic boundaries several times over the years and these numbers reflect the configuration in 2001...see map) November has not been an odd time for tornadic activity. The months of November and December have been designated the secondary severe weather season in Alabama. But the event that subsequently took place on 24 November 2001 was extremely abnormal, specifically the number of tornadoes that occurred during a 24 hour period.
From approximately 10:00 AM CST until 10:00 PM CST on 24 November 2001, 24 tornadoes touched down across North and Central Alabama [NWS Birmingham CWA (BHM)]. These 24 tornadoes tracked across 25 individual counties, which equated to exactly half of the counties served by the National Weather Service Birmingham Forecast Office. An additional 10 tornadoes touched down in Southwest Alabama [NWS Mobile CWA (MOB)]. In Southeast Alabama [NWS Tallahassee CWA (TLH)], two tornadoes occurred, but they were during the early morning hours of the 25th. Several additional tornadoes struck adjacent states before and after the Alabama tornadoes.
Historically, 24 November 2001 goes down as the largest tornado outbreak ever for the Birmingham CWA. In fact, there have been only 8 years from 1961 to 2001 which have recorded more tornado occurrences in an entire year! With the added events of 24 November 2001, 33 tornadoes occurred in the Birmingham CWA in 2001, which ties for the second highest yearly total ever recorded. The highest yearly total occurred in 2000, when 34 tornadoes touched down. This also pushed the state total to 55 tornadoes in 2001, which is the highest yearly total ever recorded in Alabama. The only previous Alabama events in recent history that draw comparison to 24 November 2001 are the Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak in 1994, the Super Outbreak of 1974, and the Veteran's Day Tornado Outbreak of 2002 .
The Birmingham CWA endured one F4, one F3, ten F2's, six F1's, and six F0's on 24 November 2001. These tornadoes were rated on the Fujita Scale of damage intensity. Although a large majority of the tornadoes were F2 intensity or weaker, nine tornadoes had path lengths greater than six miles. The path lengths ranged from a brief touchdown to 38.9 miles. Two tornadoes were deadly, an F3 and an F2, killing four Alabamians. Miraculously, the violent F4 tornado across Blount and Etowah Counties did not account for any fatalities on this day. At least 70 other individuals sustained various physical injuries. The National Weather Service Birmingham Forecast Office issued 96 total warnings, 64 were Tornado Warnings and 32 were Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. The Birmingham NWS Office averaged just over 5 warnings per hour for 18 hours. Of the 24 tornadoes on 24 November 2001, only three tornado events were not preceeded by any type of warning. Eighteen tornadoes touched down inside the valid time of a Tornado Warning and 4 started during the valid time of a Severe Thunderstorm Warning. Only two tornadoes occurred outside a Tornado Watch. Without the timely issuance of these watches and warnings, undoubtedly, many more Alabamians would have received injuries or even lost their lives on this violent weather day. See More Stats!
Part I concentrates on the damage assessments of each supercell thunderstorm and the overall scope of the event. There will be two companion papers that further address the meteorology, radar interpretation, and warning decision making issues affecting this event in the future. All times included in the paper are Central Standard Time. Click Here to view a loop of 0.5 Reflectivity or 0.5 SRM.
2. SUPERCELL TORNADOES AND STORM DATA
2.1 Supercell #1---At least 2 Tornadoes
Kennedy-Fayette-Carbon Hill F3 (1056 AM-1142 AM) Pickens, Lamar, Fayette, and Walker Counties
A supercell thunderstorm produced an F1 tornado in Noxubee County, Mississippi (NWS Jackson CWA (JAN)) in the early morning hours of 24 November 2001. The storm maintained its strength and rotation and entered western Alabama around 10:35 am. The storm traveled most of the way across Pickens County and the first touchdown did not occur until very close to the Pickens and Lamar County line at 10:56 am. The tornado killed two individuals and injured one just southwest of Kennedy and severely damaged several homes. The storm moved northeast out of Lamar County at 11:07 am and tracked across Fayette County until 11:41 am. The tornado caused serious damage to a number of structures in the city of Fayette. The tornado entered Walker County at 11:41 am and quickly dissipated at 11:42 am in a rural area with little damage. This tornado severely damaged many buildings and homes along the path. Numerous trees and power lines were also taken down in and near the path. The tornado was rated an F3 with a path length of 38.9 miles, which made this the first and longest tornado track of the day. At its widest point, the damage width was 300 yards. The supercell continued rotating across Walker, Winston, and Morgan Counties before weakening in Northern Morgan County. The storm produced no additional damage beyond the tornado end point. More Information Here!
2.2 Supercell #2---At least 4 Tornadoes
Moundville F0 (1102 AM) Hale County
A supercell thunderstorm formed over southern Sumter County and moved northeast across Sumter and Greene Counties. The supercell produced a weak F0 tornado near Moundville in Hale County, which appeared to develop under the core of the storm and not near the hook echo. This tornado briefly touched down just northeast of Moundville along SR 69. The tornado knocked a few trees down and caused minor damage to a nursery and a mobile home. Small hail, just smaller than a dime, was also reported with this storm in Moundville. Personnel from the Volunteer Fire Department witnessed the tornado as it moved northeast across the city. No injuries were reported. More Information Here!
Mt. Carmel-Altoona F4 (119 PM-135 PM) Blount and Etowah Counties
Supercell #2 continued rotating across Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties prompting Tornado Warnings for each of these counties. But this supercell did not produce a tornado in either Tuscaloosa or Jefferson County. Numerous reports of funnel clouds were received and hail up to baseball size was reported at this time. As the storm entered western Blount County, it became much stronger and produced the strongest tornado of the day across Blount and Etowah Counties.
This F4 tornado first touched down at approximately 1:19 PM in the vicinity of the Mt. Carmel Church, south of US Highway 231 on County Road 29, where several trees were snapped off. The tornado tracked northeast producing extensive F2 magnitude damage to homes and trailer homes along Tidwell Road, where there were several injuries. All trees in the neighborhood were snapped mid-trunk. Blount County 911 received the first calls for assistance at approximately 1:29 PM. As the tornado crossed US Highway 231, it completely destroyed a stick-frame house, with F3 magnitude damage. Large trees around the house were uprooted and snapped mid-trunk. From there, the tornado continued moving northeast and produced it's worst, F4 magnitude damage, between Robbins Lake and Airport Road. Large trees were completely snapped off at ground level; two tandem-wheel dump trucks were overturned, and moved or rolled approximately 30 yards; several storage containers filled with construction supplies and equipment were rolled up to 50 yards; a large bulldozer was moved approximately 5 feet; a large pole-barn building was completely obliterated. The tornado continued northward across Robbins Field, then across an unpopulated area, until it entered Western Etowah County in the town of Altoona, at approximately 1:35 PM. The tornado descended a steep hill, and downed an entire stand of pine trees at mid-trunk. Several homes and trailer-homes were damaged or destroyed, including a well-constructed $250,000 home, which was completely destroyed, the second occurrence of F4 magnitude damage. The tornado crossed AL Highway 132, ascending a steep hill, and dissipated, making a total track length of 10 miles. At it's widest point, the tornado was approximately one-quarter mile wide. Debris was scattered several miles past the end of the tornado track. No fatalities were reported but 22 people were injured. More Information Here!
Geraldine-Pine Ridge F2 (225 PM-231 PM) Dekalb County
Supercell #2 varied in intensity as it crossed the remainder of Etowah County, brushing extreme southeast Marshall County, before it moved into Dekalb County.
This tornado first touched down at approximately 2:25 PM along County Road 65 southwest of Peaks Corner, with tree damage. The tornado tracked to County Road 52, where a small barn was destroyed. As the tornado continued northeastward, several chicken barns received heavy damage, and many trees were snapped off at mid-trunk. A narrow path of damage continued northeast, including F2 damage, removing a roof from a cinder-block building and knocking down a wall, and moving a small pickup truck several feet. The tornado continued northeast, destroying a trailer home, snapping off trees, and damaging more chicken barns along CR 44. The tornado descended a steep hill into the Pine Ridge community, damaging a church, where the path ended. The width of the tornado was approximately 100 yards wide, with a track length of 7.1 miles. There were no injuries reported with this tornado. The tornado was rated an F2. The supercell pushed across the rest of Dekalb County and into Georgia where it produced an F1 tornado in Dade County Georgia (NWS Atlanta CWA (FFC)). More Information Here!
2.3 Supercell #3---At least 2 Tornadoes
Haleyville F2 (1121 AM-1124 AM) Marion and Winston Counties
The Haleyville Tornado first struck about 3 tenths of a mile into Marion County just south of County Road 196 at 11:21 AM. The tornado traveled on a northeast path moving directly through the center of downtown Haleyville severely damaging buildings including a shopping mall. The tornado continued traveling northeast through a residential and partially wooded area before ending about 7 tenths of a mile northeast of downtown Haleyville at 11:24 AM. The tornado was rated an F2 on the Fujita Scale for tornado classification making it a strong tornado. The tornado path was 1.9 miles long and approximately 70 yards wide at its widest point. Thirteen people were injured in Haleyville. Radar signatures associated with this storm were not indicative of the damaging nature of this storm. More Information Here!
Caddo-Trinity F2 (1210 PM-1215 PM) Lawrence and Morgan Counties
The same supercell thunderstorm that produced the tornado in Haleyville, produced another tornado near the Lawrence and Morgan County Line. The tornado began at 12:10 PM one mile southwest of Caddo near CR 214. The tornado moved northeast through Caddo and into Morgan County. The tornado ended at 12:15 PM near North Mountain Road in Trinity. This tornado has been rated an F2 on the Fujita Scale with estimated winds of 113 to 157 mph. Emergency Management Officials have estimated that around 25 homes sustained varying degrees of damage, including 3 homes that received significant damage. Additional damage was reported to several businesses and one church. Numerous trees were snapped or uprooted and numerous outbuildings were destroyed. Two minor injuries were reported in Caddo. The tornado path was 4.9 miles long and 300 yards wide at its widest point. The storm continued across southeast Limestone County and Madison County, but no further damage was reported in Alabama. More Information Here!
2.4 Supercell #4---At least 4 Tornadoes
Samantha F1 (1139 AM-1141 AM) Tuscaloosa County
Supercell #4 moved across northern Sumter and Greene Counties, then spawned an F1 tornado near Lake Lurleen State Park, just northwest of Northport. The tornado began at 11:39 AM 10 miles northwest of Northport, just west of the intersection of Rue Road and CR 90. The tornado ended at 11:41 AM near Pole Bridge Creek. The tornado mainly snapped off trees along its path but a home suffered damage at the intersection of CR 90 and Rue Road. The home sustained major roof damage and had its front porch totally removed. A few outbuildings were also destroyed on this same property. No injuries were reported. Storm spotters followed this storm near Buhl and Elrod and reported a wall cloud and funnel cloud prior to the development of a tornado. The tornado path was 2.0 miles long and 75 yards wide at its widest point. More Information Here!
Good Hope F0 (102 PM) Cullman County
Supercell #4 continued across the remainder of Tuscaloosa County, through southern Walker County, and into Cullman County. At the rest area on Interstate 65, south of Cullman, a funnel cloud had been reported at 1257 pm. At the Shell Station just off I-65, a witness reported another funnel cloud off to the west around 1 pm. Another witness reported a brief tornado touchdown damaging a few trees in a rural area. This occurred 0.7 miles west of Good Hope. The tornado was rated an F0 with a path length of 0.2 miles. The damage width was narrow, only 50 yards wide at its widest point.
More Information Here!
Union Grove F2 (141 PM-144 PM) Marshall County
Supercell #4 continued moving northeast across the eastern half of Cullman County, the southeastern part of Morgan County, and finally entered Marshall County. This supercell thunderstorm produced another tornado in the Union Grove area. The tornado began at 1:41 PM, 5 miles northwest of Union Grove, near Shumate Mountain. The tornado moved northeast crossing CR 240 and ending at 1:44 PM near the base of Benton Round Mountain. The heaviest damage occurred southwest of CR 240. Ten to 15 mobile homes were destroyed, 5 homes suffered varying degrees of damage, several outbuildings and barns were destroyed, an ultra-lite hangar was destroyed, 2 hunting cabins were destroyed, and 7 people received injuries. The tornado was rated an F2 with a path length of 2.0 miles. The tornado was 300 yards wide at its widest point. More Information Here!
New Hope F2 (150 PM-154 PM) Madison County
Supercell #4 maintained its northeast track, crossed the Tennessee River, and produced another tornado in southeastern Madison County. This tornado was rated an F2 on the Fujita Scale. The tornado touched down around 1:50 PM, about 3.6 miles west-southwest of the city of New Hope, near the base of Lemley Mountain. It downed some trees and produced light damage to some homes. The tornado then strengthened as it moved northeast, through a mobile home community, where several mobile homes were thrown and demolished. After crossing US Highway 431 and damaging several businesses in the area, the tornado lifted about 3/4 mile northeast of the US-431, Old Highway 431 intersection, around 1:54 PM. Despite damage to at least 21 homes, including 8 that were completely demolished, there were no known injuries. In the mobile home community where the greatest damage occurred, residents stated they heard the Tornado Warning on TV, and took cover in underground storm shelters. The total damage path was 2.6 miles in length, and around 300 yards at its widest point. No additional damage was reported in Alabama from this supercell. More Information Here!
2.5 Supercell #5---At least 4 Tornadoes
Cedarville F0 (1234 PM-1236 PM) Hale County
Supercell #5 produced an F0 tornado in northeast Choctaw County around 11:45 AM (NWS Mobile CWA (MOB)), then proceeded across Marengo County between Demopolis and Linden. The supercell produced another tornado as it entered Hale county near Cedarville. The tornado began at 12:34 PM about 1 mile south of Cedarville on SR 69. The tornado snapped and uprooted several trees along its path. One farm received damage to few structures, including one barn that had its roof torn off. Two automobiles were damaged by flying debris. The tornado ended at 12:36 PM near CR 9, just north of CR 16. The path was 2.1 miles long and 75 yards wide at its widest point. The tornado remained over rural farmland for most of its path. More Information Here!
Pell City F2 (310 PM-317 PM) St. Clair County
Supercell #5 continued across Perry, Bibb, and Shelby Counties with only a few large hail reports. The supercell then developed a tornado on the west-southwest side of Pell City just behind the school at 3:10 PM. The tornado traveled on an east-northeast path downing a communication tower at the EMA/911 office and doing minor roof damage. The storm then crossed over downtown Pell City where a number of buildings sustained light to moderate roof damage along with awnings damaged and some windows broken. The tornado crossed US 231 and became very weak, possibly lifting for a little more than a mile, before slamming into a number of buildings in an industrial park. Some of the greatest destruction was done here. The tornado crossed Interstate 20 and ended after damaging a couple of houses on Sprayberry Road at approximately 3:17 PM. The tornado was rated an F2 with a path length of 4.5 miles and a width of 100 yards at its widest point. No deaths occurred in this tornado but there were two injuries, both classified as minor. More Information Here!
Cane Creek F1 (403 PM-410 PM) Calhoun County
Supercell #5 entered Calhoun County and produced another tornado just north of Anniston. The tornado was rated an F1 on the Fujita Scale. The tornado began at 4:03 PM near Cane Creek and US 431. The tornado proceeded northeast and ended at 410 PM near Broadwells Mill, just west of Jacksonville. Preliminary estimates have 10 to 20 homes damaged, numerous outbuildings and barns destroyed, and several mobile homes damaged. Two farming operations had several buildings destroyed. A cemetery on US 431 sustained damage and 5 people received minor injuries when struck by flying debris. The tornado path was 7.7 miles long and 250 yards wide at its widest point. No additional damage was reported in Alabama from this supercell. More Information Here!
2.6 Supercell #6---At least 3 Tornadoes
Vance F0 (1237 PM) Tuscaloosa County
A supercell thunderstorm started organizing itself across Sumter, Greene, and Hale Counties and then produced a very brief F0 tornado near mile marker 100 on Interstate 59. The tornado was spotted by numerous individuals and storm spotters a quarter to half mile east of Exit 100 on Interstate 59. The tornado only briefly touched down at 12:37 PM in a rural area with little or no damage.
More Information Here!
Trussville-Argo F2 (131 PM-152 PM) Jefferson and St. Clair Counties
This impressive supercell tracked across most of Jefferson County with numerous reports of funnel clouds and large hail. A tornado then touched down near the intersection of Interstate 59 and Deerfoot Parkway in Trussville at 1:31 PM. The tornado paralleled the Interstate for a short distance, downed trees and caused damage to houses especially on the east side of the Interstate. The tornado crossed into St. Clair County at Argo at approximately 1:36 PM. The tornado continued on a northeast track moving primarily through rural settings with property damage along the way including a number of houses and mobile homes. The tornado ended about 5.5 miles east of Springville around 1:52 PM. The tornado was rated an F2 and was on the ground for 13.8 miles with a width of about 125 yards. Only one injury has been reported at Argo with this tornado. More Information Here!
Sand Rock F2 (301 PM-318 PM) Cherokee County
The supercell moved northeast across the remainder of St. Clair and Etowah Counties with no damage reports. The supercell still maintained its strength and rotation and was an impressive storm. Once into Cherokee County, another tornado began 2.7 miles south southwest of Sand Rock at 3:01 PM. The tornado moved across the southern and eastern portions of Sand Rock damaging a number of structures. Two people were killed in a mobile home just east of Sand Rock. The tornado continued northeast moving through mostly open areas with structures damaged and trees downed along the way. The tornado finally dissipated around 3:18 PM about 5.5 miles northeast of Sand Rock. The tornado was rated an F2 with a path length of 8.1 miles and a width of 200 yards. The storm then moved northeast into Georgia without any further damage in Alabama. More Information Here!
2.7 Supercell #7---At least 2 Tornadoes
Half Acre F0 (1256 PM-1257 PM) Marengo County
A supercell thunderstorm produced an F0 tornado in the east central part of Choctaw County (NWS Mobile CWA (MOB)) around 1235 PM. Then the storm traveled northeast into Marengo County. Several people witnessed a small tornado touchdown in the Half Acre Community. The tornado occurred in a rural, wooded area. Several trees and power lines were blown down along the short, narrow path. More Information Here!
2.8 Supercell #8---At least 1 Tornado
Vinemont F0 (1259 PM-103 PM) Cullman County
This supercell tracked all the way across the Birmingham CWA, with only one tornado touching down. North of Cullman, damage had been reported at Terri Pines Country Club, and in the town of Vinemont. At Terri Pines, there were several tall trees damaged, either uprooted or snapped off at mid-trunk at approximately 1:00 PM. One witness at the golf course reported to have seen a funnel; another witness reported a sudden end to a downpour, the sky turning black, then a sudden return of the downpour with the sky becoming lighter. From the golf course, the storm moved northeast. The tornado appears to have lifted or weakened as it crossed I-65, as there was only minimal debris from the trees along the road. The tornado continued northeasterly to Vinemont, just west of US Highway 31 and south of County Road 1292 just after 1:00 PM. The tornado reached F1 intensity, destroying 2 chicken barns and severely damaging a third, scattering debris at least a mile away. A mobile home slightly downhill from the chicken barns had parts of it's roof torn off, and there were several holes in the side of the mobile home caused by debris projectiles. The final damage along the track was a stick frame garage, which was shifted off it's slab in a twisting motion, causing it to collapse on itself. Witnesses at this location reported hearing a load roaring noise, similar to a jet aircraft. At it's widest point, the tornado was approximately 200 yards wide. The total length of the path was about 2.1 miles. More Information Here!
2.9 Supercell #9---At least 2 Tornadoes
Sylacauga F2 (342 PM-345 PM) Talladega County
A supercell moved northeast across Perry, Chilton, and Coosa Counties. The storm entered Talladega County and strengthened considerably. National Weather Service Meteorologists rated the tornado an F2 on the Fujita Scale. The tornado began at 3:42 PM near the intersection of Forest Glen Road and Odens Mill Road in the Oak Grove community. It traveled northeast crossing US 280 and ended at 3:45 PM near Shirtee Creek in the Odena community. The Red Cross and the local Emergency Management Agency estimate that 15 people were injured, two critically. Forty to 50 homes were damaged with 7 of the homes sustaining significant damage. Ten mobile homes were totally destroyed. Several outbuildings and sheds were destroyed and numerous trees were blown down or uprooted. The tornado path was 3.1 miles long and 400 yards wide at its widest point. More Information Here!
Germany Mountain F2 (359 PM-409 PM) Talladega County
The same storm that spawned the Sylacauga tornado produced another tornado in eastern Talladega County. This tornado was also rated an F2 on the Fujita Scale. The tornado began at 3:59 PM 4 miles southeast of Winterboro in the Talladega National Forest. The tornado tracked northeast across Germany Mountain and ended at 409 PM 1 mile southeast of Waldo. Several homes were damaged on Germany Mountain with one receiving significant damage. At least 6 mobile homes were totally destroyed and several outbuildings and barns were destroyed. No injuries were reported. The tornado path was 9.1 miles long and 200 yards wide at its widest point. The supercell tracked across Cleburne County without incident. More Information Here!
2.10 Supercell #10---At least 1 Tornado
Barfield F1 (510 PM-523 PM) Clay and Randolph County
The start of this F1 tornado was approximately one mile east of AL 9 on County Road 58, with a roof torn off a barn. On Black's Chapel road near Black's Chapel, several trees were snapped at mid-trunk. Black's Chapel itself had the steeple torn off, with additional roof damage. Across the street, there was extensive damage, with a barn destroyed. A path of damage extended across Ingram Road, Wakefield Road, across Foster's Bridge Road, to Monroe. Several barns were destroyed, with widespread tree damage. The storm track continued northeast across Mt Moriah Road (County Road 58), and crossed into Randolph County along County Road 82, for less than a mile. The tornado appeared to have a wide path of damage, up to 300 yards at the widest point, and had a length of approximately 6.5 miles. Witnesses in the area reported hearing the load roaring, or "freight train" noise as the storm passed. The tornado first touched down at approximately 5:10 PM, and entered into Randolph County approximately 5:22 PM, dissipating shortly thereafter. More Information Here!
2.11 Supercell #11---At least 1 Tornado
Poseys Crossroads F1 (354 PM-407 PM) Autauga County
The F1 tornado first touched down at approximately 3:54 PM in the vicinity of Huckleberry Lane, just north of AL Hwy 82 about 10 miles northwest of Prattville, where a trailer home was destroyed. The tornado tracked in a northeast direction, and next produced damage on Olmstead Drive, off of County Road (CR) 63, overturning a travel trailer, destroying a shed, and bending a one inch pipe flag pole. At 3:55 PM, Autauga County 911 received a report of a tornado on the ground with homes damaged, trailers hit, and possible injuries at JC's Trailer Park on CR 40. One trailer had it's roof torn off and was badly damaged, and another trailer was overturned. Only minor injuries were reported. From there, the tornado continued moving northeast, producing damage along CR 57 north of Posey's Corner. A vacant trailer home was destroyed, and a second home received window, roof, and siding damage. The occupants at the home heard the tornado coming and took shelter. The tornado track continued across CR 62 and CR 59, destroying a shed and damaging a roof, then dissipated before reaching Interstate 65. The track length was approximately 8 to 9 miles in length, with damage confined to a very narrow track of less than 100 yards. More Information Here!
2.12 Supercell #12---At least 1 Tornado
Ansley F0 (842 PM) Pike County
A very brief tornado touchdown occurred in the Ansley Community. This location is northwest of Troy in northern Pike County. A few trees were blown down along the short path. No additional damage was reported in Alabama from this storm. The tornado was rated an F0 with a path length of two tenths of a mile. The damage width was 50 yards at its widest point. More Information Here!
2.13 Supercell #13---At least 2 Tornadoes
Springhill-Brundidge F1 (927 PM-947 PM) Pike County
A supercell thunderstorm produced an F0 tornado in Covington County (NWS Mobile CWA (MOB)) around 7:28 PM. The storm continued northeastward and produced another tornado in Pike County. This F1 tornado began near the intersection of SR 87 and CR 78 south of Spring Hill. A few homes sustained moderate roof damage near the beginning of the path between SR 87 and CR 167. The tornado traveled northeast and damaged a few roofs near Mims Creek. The tornado ended just south of the city of Brundidge where one home had significant roof damage. Numerous trees were snapped off or blown down along the entire tornado path. No injuries were reported. The tornado path length was 11.8 miles and the damage width was 75 yards at its widest point. No additional damage was reported in Alabama. More Information Here!
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