Tornado that hit Alabama town, killing 1, was an EF-3 with 150 mph winds

Phil Helsel
·3 min read
Tornado that hit Alabama town, killing 1, was an EF-3 with 150 mph winds

A tornado that struck Alabama on Monday night, killing a 14-year-old boy and injuring more than two dozen people, was an EF-3 storm with peak winds of 150 mph, the National Weather Service said.

The tornado struck Fultondale and Center Point, northern suburbs of Birmingham, at around 10:30 p.m. Monday as a series of storms swept through the central part of the state.

Elliott Hernandez, 14, who was found dead in the basement of a Fultondale home that collapsed, the Jefferson County medical examiner said.

Image: Tornado Rips Through Fultondale, Alabama Damaging Structures (Jay Reeves / AP)
Image: Tornado Rips Through Fultondale, Alabama Damaging Structures (Jay Reeves / AP)

There were around 30 injuries, officials said. The tornado came through the middle of Fultondale, a city of around 9,000, Fultondale Fire Chief Justin McKenzie said.

The National Weather Service did storm surveys and Tuesday evening classified the tornado as an EF-3 with peak winds of around 150 mph. The intensity varied along the storm's path, which was around 9 1/2 miles.

"It's devastating," Jefferson County Commissioner Joe Knight said of the damage in the hardest-hit areas. "But we're going to get through this," he added. "It's going to take a while."

Fultondale suffered the brunt of the damage, but a residential area in Center Point to the northeast was also hit, the mayor of that city said.

Aerial video showed destroyed and collapsed homes, and structures with roofs torn off. A hotel was heavily damaged and partially collapsed.

One woman who was in a hotel in Fultondale that was heavily damaged told NBC affiliate WVTM that she was asleep and the storm sounded "like a train."

Jason Williams, his wife and their two daughters escaped after their home collapsed and trapped them in the basement where they sought shelter.

"God had his mighty hand on us. That’s all I can say. God protected us last night,” Williams, who suffered a cut on his forehead and bruises to his legs, told The Associated Press.

Image: Tornado Rips Through Fultondale, Alabama Damaging Structures (Jay Reeves / AP)
Image: Tornado Rips Through Fultondale, Alabama Damaging Structures (Jay Reeves / AP)

The 14-year-old boy who died was in the 9th grade, Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Walter B. Gonsoulin Jr. said. Fultondale High School suffered a lot of damage and he called it a blessing that the tornado did not strike during the day.

The boy was in the basement with family members when a tree fell on the home, officials said.

"They did what they were supposed to do," Knight, the county commissioner, said. The father was also injured, he said.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey pledged any assistance required. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin also said he has spoken with the mayors of Fultondale and Center Point and offered the city's help.

Image: Fultondale, Alabama (Anthony Dodd Photos)
Image: Fultondale, Alabama (Anthony Dodd Photos)

"We all understand how the violent power of a tornado can change lives in a moment," Woodfin tweeted.

The Tuscaloosa and Birmingham area was hit by a major EF-4 nearly a decade ago, a tornado that also struck Fultondale.

The April 27, 2011 tornado killed 65 people in all and had estimated maximum winds of 190 mph, according to the National Weather Service.