2011 Hackleburg–Phil Campbell, Alabama tornado
|2011 Hackleburg – Phil Campbell, Alabama tornado|
|Date||April 27, 2011|
|Time||3:05 – 5:40 pm CDT |
|Damages||$1.29 billion (2011 USD)|
|Area affected||Hackleburg, Phil Campbell, Tanner, Harvest in Alabama and Huntland, Tennessee (part of a larger outbreak)|
The 2011 Hackleburg – Phil Campbell, Alabama tornado was a violent, long-track EF5 tornado that devastated several towns in northern Alabama, before tearing through the western suburbs of Huntsville and causing damage in rural portions of southern Tennessee on the afternoon and early evening of April 27, 2011. It was the deadliest tornado of the April 25–28, 2011 tornado outbreak, the largest tornado outbreak in United States history. The tornado reached a maximum width of 1.25 mi (2.01 km) and was estimated to have had peak winds of 210 mph (340 km/h). The tornado killed 72 people, making it the deadliest tornado in Alabama history and it was the deadliest tornado to strike the U.S. since the Udall, Kansas tornado of 1955 until the catastrophic tornado on May 22, 2011, which killed 158 people in Joplin, Missouri.
The tornado initially touched down in Marion County, Alabama about 5 miles (8.0 km) west-southwest of Hamilton around 3:05 pm CDT and tracked northeast, causing significant tree damage. The tornado reached EF4 strength as it approached U.S. Highway 43. As it neared and struck Hackleburg, moving parallel to Highway 43, the tornado further strengthened to EF5 intensity and widened to 0.75 mi (1.21 km). In the city it destroyed several subdivisions, three schools and a Wrangler plant and tossed cars as far as 200 yd (180 m). Jeans from the plant reportedly fell from the sky in Courtland, Alabama. In Marion County alone the tornado killed eighteen people and damaged hundreds of structures of which at least 100 were completely destroyed. Well built homes were wiped cleanly from their foundations and cars were thrown hundreds of feet. The tornado was powerful enough to scour concrete from the ground, leaving nothing but the dirt underneath. Most buildings in downtown Hackleburg were badly damaged. According to the Red Cross, 75% of the town was destroyed. While initially rated as an EF3, after further analysis of the damage the rating was increased to EF5, making it the first F5 or EF5 tornado in Alabama since the Birmingham tornado of April 8, 1998.
Continuing Parallel to Highway 43 the tornado crossed into Franklin County, destroying several homes. A 25 ft (7.6 m) section of pavement was torn from a road with fragments scattered more than 1⁄3 mi (0.54 km). The tornado continued through the town of Phil Campbell at EF5 intensity, scouring grass from hillsides, wiping a church off its foundation and destroying numerous mobile homes, tossing their mangled frames 25 to 50 yards. The tornado passed through many residential streets in Phil Campbell, completely sweeping away many homes. Trees in the area were debarked, one of which had a car wrapped around it. The concrete roof of an underground storm shelter was torn off in this area. The tornado continued to intensify as it reached the rural community of Oak Grove, reaching a strength well into the EF5 range and exceeding 1 mile (1.6 km) in width. Oak Grove suffered a large swath of complete devastation with several large and well built homes swept off their foundations and a Corvette mangled and tossed 641 feet (195 m). Hundreds of trees were also debarked and twisted, and had only stubs of largest branches remaining. Phil Campbell was also affected by an F5 tornado on April 3, 1974, during the Super Outbreak; that storm also went on to affect Tanner and Harvest.
EF5 damage continued similarly northeast from Phil Campbell, roughly along County Roads 81 and 82. Several high voltage TVA power line trusses were twisted and toppled, particularly near Highway 243. Six chicken houses were completely destroyed near the Franklin-Lawrence County line. The tornado continued into Lawrence County near the Mount Hope area where significant devastation was incurred to single-family homes and a restaurant. Nothing but the foundation and a pile of debris remained at the restaurant site, and a small portion of the restaurant's foundation slab buckled. Thousands of hardwood and softwood trees were snapped, with a significant number of trees twisted and debarked with only stubs of branches remaining. Many mobile homes were also destroyed with the frames mangled, and a single-family home was completely destroyed, with the walls and contents strewn over a hundred yards. Meteorologist Gary Dobbs, with WAAY-TV since 1984, spotted this tornado from his car and was unable to get to his storm shelter. While his house was destroyed around him, Dobbs was thrown 40 feet (12 m) from the house. The door of the storm shelter blew off, but no friends therein were seriously injured. Dobbs required hospitalization.
Further northeast, more trees were found snapped and twisted before reaching Highway 24. At this location, 4 chicken houses were completely destroyed with much of the debris wrapped around debarked trees. TVA high voltage power line trusses were also destroyed at this location. The tornado continued northeast wreaking significant devastation in and around the Langtown community north of Moulton. On the west side of Alabama Highway 33, several homes sustained significant damage with roofs missing or only interior rooms remaining. A nearby store and gas station also sustained significant damage. The tornado strengthened again as it moved into County Roads 214 and 298, where multiple houses and mobile homes were completely destroyed. Several cars were tossed into fields and wrapped around trees along County Road 291 and 292. One vehicle was tossed into a large hardwood tree that was also debarked. Tree and mobile home damage continued along County Roads 217 and 222, where a handful of large high voltage TVA power poles were destroyed, cutting off electricity delivery from Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant. Tornado damage continued northeast towards Alabama Highway 20, where a restaurant was completely destroyed and two single-family houses were significantly damaged. Tree damage continued into extreme northwestern Morgan County.
The tornado continued a short stretch through the northwest corner of Morgan County, crossing Wheeler Lake, and into Limestone, coming within approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) of Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant and toppling nearly a dozen high voltage power lines in Limestone County, snapping concrete power poles at their bases. These power lines delivered electricity from Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant, and without the outlet, the plant had to be shut down. The tornado continued towards the small community of Tanner.
Tanner experienced a large swath of EF4 damage and a narrow corridor of "high-end EF4 to near-EF5 damage". The storm "completely wiped clean" several well constructed homes with anchor bolting. One home was scattered over 300 yards with large items carried completely away. Intense ground scarring occurred in this area. The storm also tossed a large cargo container approximately 600 yards and carried several cars airborne for hundreds of yards. Several homes and a church that were destroyed by the 1974 Tanner tornadoes and later rebuilt, were destroyed once again by this tornado. As the storm crossed US-Hwy 72 in eastern Limestone County, the tornado destroyed a Nexrad radar operated by NBC affiliate WAFF and continued into East Limestone, a heavily populated area of Limestone County where numerous homes were damaged or destroyed. Many subdivisions were devastated in this area. As the storm crossed into Madison County, AL, it approached the densely populated suburban communities of Harvest and Toney, where many neighborhoods and subdivisions are located. The storm destroyed many homes and businesses along Yarborough Rd and Ford Chapel Rd and then swept through the Harvest/Toney area where it damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes, especially in the Anderson Hills and Carter's Gin subdivisions. Many homes were reduced to rubble, and the damage in this area was rated EF4. The tornado completely destroyed a Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Harvest as well as severely damaged a convenience store and local bank, which was shut down for months following the event. The storm progressed across Pulaski Pike in northwest Madison County, damaging many homes. In all, hundreds of homes received moderate to major damage along the path from Limestone to Madison County with many of these being total losses. The tornado weakened and produced EF0 tree damage in the Hazel Green area and through rural areas as it moved towards the Tennessee border.
The track then moved into Tennessee and continued south of Huntland. Isolated and minor EF0 tree damage was noted at the intersection of John Hunter Highway (State Route 122) and Limestone Road near the Lincoln/Franklin county line. More significant damage was noted, starting about 1.4 miles (2.3 km) south southwest of Huntland. A cinder block building suffered damage to its flat adobe roof, with some of blocks near the roof (around 20 feet (6.1 m) off of the ground) pushed out, resulting in EF2 damage. Surveyors could not directly examine the roof given this building was on the highest ground in the vicinity. Nearby, a single-family home of cinder block construction had its roof totally removed, with another home about 1,000 feet (300 m) away having significant roof damage, with over one half of its roof removed, and some shifting off of its foundation. Damage with the latter was consistent with high-end EF2 damage. A chicken building nearby the second home, with metal girding was completely flattened, consistent with EF2 damage.
A farm complex south of Hickory Grove road had damage to a number of structures there. The home and the main car garage had part of their roofs removed. A barn that was protecting bales of hay was destroyed, with a few of bales blown from 100–200 feet from their original location. The worst damage was noted with lower end EF3 damage to a cinder block utility building about 200 feet (61 m) south of the primary residence. Most of its roof was removed, with over half of its downwind wall pushed outward. An older barn nearby suffered lesser EF0 damage to it roof, while the top half of a silo near that barn was missing. Another barn structure was completely destroyed northwest of the primary home. The width at this point was approximately 1/4 mile. Other damage was noted near the intersection of Hickory Grove Road and Sugar Cove Road, with EF1 damage to some heavy farm equipment and EF0 roof damage to a nearby barn. Scattered trees were downed to the northeast, with 8-inch (200 mm) fence posts 18 inches (460 mm) deep pulled up near Hickory Grove and Buncombe Road. There was evidence the tornado continued toward mountains a few miles further east, with some trees damaged along the ridge.
Aftermath and response
In total, this tornado killed 72 people, all in Alabama. This made it the deadliest single tornado ever to strike the state of Alabama as well as (at the time) the deadliest in the United States since the 1955 Udall, Kansas tornado that killed 80 people. This death toll would go on to be exceeded by the Joplin EF5 tornado less than a month later. Damage from the tornado amounted to $1.29 billion, making this one of the costliest tornadoes in U.S. history. This tornado also had the longest track of any tornado in the outbreak, with its path extending 132 miles (212 km) across Northern Alabama and into Tennessee.
In response to the damage in Phil Campbell, one of the hardest hit communities, writer Phil Campbell organized a fundraising and relief effort composed of 20 people with the name Phil Campbell or variations thereof. These Phil Campbells traveled to the community from places as far away as Australia to aid in the cleanup effort. Many of these people had planned to attend a convention in June, 2011 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the city's incorporation.
- List of F5 and EF5 tornadoes
- April 25–28, 2011 tornado outbreak
- Tornadoes of 2011
- 2011 Tuscaloosa – Birmingham tornado A similarly deadly tornado that was part of the same outbreak.
- List of North American tornadoes and tornado outbreaks
- Tornado intensity and damage
- Tornado records
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|10 costliest US tornadoes|
|Rank||Area affected||Date||Damage 1||Adjusted Damage 2|
|1||Joplin, Missouri||May 22, 2011||2800||2935|
|2||Tuscaloosa, Alabama||April 27, 2011||2450||2569|
|3||Moore, Oklahoma||May 20, 2013||2000||2025|
|4||Oklahoma City Metro, Oklahoma||May 3, 1999||1000||1415|
|5||Hackleburg, Alabama||April 27, 2011||1290||1352|
|6||Wichita Falls, Texas||April 10, 1979||400||1299|
|7||Omaha, Nebraska||May 6, 1975||250||1094|
|8||Lubbock, Texas||May 11, 1970||250||820|
|9||Topeka, Kansas||June 8, 1966||250||726|
|10||Windsor Locks, Connecticut||October 3, 1979||200||649|
Source: Brooks, Harold E.; C. A. Doswell (Feb 2001). "Normalized Damage from Major Tornadoes in the United States: 1890–1999". Weather and Forecasting (American Meteorological Society) 16 (1): 168–76. doi:10.1175/1520-0434(2001)016<0168:NDFMTI>2.0.CO;2. 3
1. These are the unadjusted damage totals in millions of US dollars.
2. Raw damage totals adjusted for inflation, in millions of 2014 USD.
3. A search of NCDC Storm Data indicates no tornadoes between 1999 and 2010 have caused more than $400 million in damage.