Tornado Update #2 from Huntsville

April 29th, 2011 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes and prayers.

After seeing the devastation in Tuscaloosa, the suburbs of Birmingham, and entire small communities that were destroyed, we were pretty lucky right here in Huntsville proper, with little damage. Anderson Hills just to the north of town got hit AGAIN…it’s had three tornado disasters since I’ve been in Huntsville, as I recall. Some places just seem to attract tornadoes. I drove past a mobile home park south of Athens which is out in the middle of nowhere. Guess where the tornado hit.

Here in Huntsville they are saying it will be Monday before the power starts coming back on. A TVA guy on the radio said ALL of their high voltage transmission lines in the area had been damaged. There is a dusk to dawn curfew everywhere I know of, since there has been some looting in storm damaged areas.

Truckloads of generators have started arriving in the surrounding communities, selling like proverbial hotcakes. A few grocery stores have opened with generator power, but the lines are long. Don’t even think about buying bread. Charcoal is in high demand, so people can cook, as well as flashlights, batteries, candles. I’ve still got gas in our gas grill, but there is no place I know of to get more.

There are long lines of cars driving to Fayetteville, TN and Athens AL for gas and food. Reports of lines at gas stations up to 100 cars long. I’ve been taking a back road to the less traveled part of Athens, where it’s not so busy.

Food vendors are setting up around town, some with tents, and cooking food for sale. Since our annual downtown arts festival, Panoply, was coming up, there are a number of people here who can set up to offer that service.

All road intersections, no matter how major, are (of course) without traffic lights. People have to treat them as 4-way stops. A few people just zoom through without even looking. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.

There are few cars on the road, except where everyone is congregating for gas and food tens of miles west and north of town. Those places are like some sort of festival, people standing outside their cars, talking, helping each other. The weather is unseasonably cool (darn global warming!), so at least its comfortable to be outside.

My daughter ran out of gas about a mile from the nearest gas station, and she had a gas can donated (none available for sale, of course), someone gave her a ride, let her cut in line (standing with the cars). She spent half the day carrying a total of 4 gallons of gas back to her car.

Southern hospitality is a real thing here. There are many people who have no place to stay, and folks have been calling into the radio stations offering free use of vacant apartments, their homes, etc. A few are even paying for hotel rooms for other people.

I heard one lady call in to a station who said, “Go outside tonight! The stars are amazing!” Without light pollution, the sky is filled with stars and the Milky Way, something city residents never get to see from within the city.

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