Tornado Cleanup in Fords Chapel, Alabama

May 3rd, 2011 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Power is gradually being restored in and around Huntsville. UAH is closed till tomorrow, which would be my first day back to work in a week…except that I have to go to DC for the biannual NASA Aqua satellite review.

Yesterday I helped with the tornado cleanup effort in Fords Chapel, a small community northwest of Huntsville on the edge of Anderson Hills…an area that has now gone through its second major tornado disaster. The church group I was with spent most of our time with chainsaws cutting up downed trees and dragging them to the road to be picked up.

Here are a few of the photos I took there yesterday:

The minivan above was covered with volunteers’ messages, signatures, etc.

Thousands of volunteers have been helping out across Alabama. The National Guard and local fire departments have been driving around making sure people have enough water to drink. As can be seen, a few areas are so devastated that they will just have to wait for bulldozers and frontend loaders to come and cart everything away.

One man picking through what was left of his home simply said to me, “Time to start over.”

17 Responses to “Tornado Cleanup in Fords Chapel, Alabama”

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  1. EEWALT says:

    OMG, what a mess. Good luck

  2. Harold Oierce Jr says:

    What happens to all the wild anmals when their habit is destroyed by the tornado? Do they come into the urban areas and start forging for food among all the debis? Have any of the birds come back?

  3. Bill in Vigo says:

    Some times small room in the center of the house no windows lowest floor just isn’t enough.

    Bill In Vigo near Piedmont, Alabama

    God help us all.

  4. Martin says:

    Wow, storms were used to in Europe are nothing compared to this, good luck. Btw why do they prefer pitched roofs?

    • EEWALT says:

      Martin: Pitched roofs are stronger, lighter, and shed water and snow very well with minimum maintenance compared to flat roofs. You can buy asphalt shingles guaranteed for 40 years. Flat roofs require annual maintenance mainly to clean out drains and check for deterioration. Normally they require rebuilding every 10 years or so, and thus they are expensive. Flat roofs are probably less susceptible to wind damage. Walt

  5. RobertvdL says:

    I’m speechless. Helping those in need is what good people do. It makes you feel human again. It’s sad we need disasters like these to bring us together .

    good luck

  6. Dr Spencer

    As we say in NZ, “Go, you good thing”.


  7. Dr Spencer,
    There are some people in this world who are wonderful, brilliant, caring and yet humble – and you’re one of them. May the Lord bless and keep you, Robin.

  8. Can i connect a MIDI Keyboard into my Netbook & work in Fruityloops without a problem?

  9. Lubo Motl says:

    The pictures suggest that it’s more likely for the atmosphere to destroy SUVs than for the SUVs to destroy the atmosphere. 😉

  10. ???? says:

    Whats up ! Love your . thanks for sharing it with everyone

  11. Rob says:

    God bless you Roy. I am an over the road truck driver based on what I saw on the weather channel and heard and saw from other sources, incuding the weather band on my radio I planned my route to make it past that area before the worst of it. One hour after I passed through west Memphis, AR there were four trucks blown over.

    Later, as I sat safe and snuge in the Pilot truck stop in Sulpher Springs, TX I watched the weather channel as the out break really got rolling. It could not help but think just how far we have come during my 55 years in forecasting and warning people in the path of violent weather. And yet so many still get hurt and killed. As I watched the guys on the weather channel pointing out the debris ball on their radar from a tornado I could not help but think that people were being injured, killed and having their lives torn apart as I watched those radar images.

    One thing I know for sure. We live in the greatest most generous country on earth. I see the evidence that supports that conclusion all the time as an over the road trucker. Now, as during the weeks and months during the aftermath of Katrina I see pickup trucks pulling trailers heading south usually with some Church logo on their trailer.

  12. pochas says:


    I don’t know whether you get around this way very often these days, but I notice that RSS hasn’t updated their TLT anomalies data since December of 2010, and I doubt this is due to carelessness. It leads one to wonder whether there are calibration issues they feel may not have been adequately addressed. If there are such issues, I’d like to see you comment on them to avoid any backscatter if said issues do become public later. Your work in this area is extremely valuable and I have ultimate trust in your honesty and your objectivity. I shudder to think that someday custody of the MSU data might pass to lesser lights.

  13. Baz says:

    Excuse this from an Englander (we actually get our fair share here, believe it or not), but why does it appear that the homes in the tornado-prone areas are built so flimsily? They all appear to be ‘timber-framed’! Please excuse my ignoarnce if this isn’t true, but seeing the news pictures on our TV here, the only homes left standing seem to be brick-built ones (and very few). Surely, dome-shaped brick homes with dome roofs would be ideal if you live in an area that is prone to tornadoes? The top picture here shows block-built, but it’s clear that these are very lightweight blocks that are actually hollow.

    I was equally surprised at the Japanese earthquake. The only buildings left standing were brick and concrete block ones. All the timber ones floated away. As tsunamis are well known on Japan’s coast, I was shocked that anyone (let alone most) built their homes from timber.

    It’s a genuine question, why do these homes get built from the worst possible material? We have the Beco system here (I’m sure you do too) which would be ideal. The vast majority of homes built in the UK are brick – even though we very rarely suffer any environmental disasters. Can someone kindly answer my question as I can’t believe it’s cost, as surely to re-build each time is far more expensive?

    • John R T says:

      Timber typically is convenient to population centers.
      Conversion of tree to lumber, and lumber to structure, are simpler and more environmentally benign than making & shipping sand/grit/clay/cement- based blocks and bricks.
      Construction lumber: the ultimate carbon sequestration.
      Relatively few structures are threatened; consider the hundreds of millions of structures un-touched, annually. Promising a home to everyone – even those with neither income nor home-making skills – has been useful to politicians; consider the economic disaster promoted by Carter, Clinton, Gore and company.

      • Marnit says:

        John R T: I’m curious about your statement “consider the economic disaster promoted by Carter, Clinton, Gore and company”. I live in Australia, so I don’t know much about US politics and economics. I had understood, however, that Clinton left a large surplus that G W Bush turned into a record deficit. Is that not the case?

  14. Johny Lee says:

    If there are such issues, Id like to see you comment on them to avoid any backscatter if said issues do become public later. Your work in this area is extremely valuable and I have ultimate trust in your honesty and your objectivity.

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