Severe weather sweeps through Chilton County

Published 12:02 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2024

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

As severe weather swept through central Alabama in the evening of April 2, a powerful storm pushed across southeastern Chilton County leaving damage in its path.

Just south of the Fairview community on County Road 37 between Clanton and Billingsley, Cynthia Bean and her family came dangerously close to an EF-0 tornado. The storm swept through the area at around 11 p.m., and Bean tried to react as best as she could to keep herself and the children in her house safe.

“I was so frantic trying to get my kids safe, and we had four kids in the house,” Bean said. “I did not hear anything, but when we came out to try to get in the storm pit we could barely get the door open. We knew it was too late and took shelter in the house.”

As the family got to cover, her daughter looked outside during a flash of lightning to see the workshop on their property completely leveled to the ground. The shop was 40 feet by 60 feet and the family repaired vehicles and used it for storage. It was ripped apart in minutes. Pieces of the building were littered across the Bean’s yard, high up into trees in their yard and in the field on the other side of County Road 37. Another shop on the property adjacent to the Bean’s property was destroyed by the tornado as well.

The storm system continued to move through southeastern Chilton County and a tornado warning was issued for the areas of Higgins Ferry Park and Lake Mitchell at 11:11 p.m. for “a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado that was 10 miles east of Clanton moving east,” according to the National Weather Service. The warning was canceled at 11:30 p.m. as the system moved quickly into Coosa County.

The NWS conducted a survey of the damage in Chilton County on April 3 and confirmed that it found evidence of EF-1 damage in Plantersville near the Dallas and Chilton County line. Winds of 95 MPH were estimated with the storm to earn the EF-1 rating. The survey also confirmed the same system continued to travel northeast to the Pools Crossroads community where the Bean residence is, and it confirmed an EF-0 tornado impacted the area. Winds were estimated to peak at 85 MPH and it was on the ground for 17 minutes crossing over Interstate 65 near U.S. Highway 31 where is dissipated.

The Chilton County Sheriff’s Office fielded more than 30 calls for road hazards, trees and power lines being down throughout the night and into the morning of April 3. The strong storms throughout Chilton County knocked out power in communities as well. Alabama Power reported at 2 a.m., just after the storms pushed out of the area, that 3,690 customers were without power in central Alabama, and 2,170 of those were in Chilton County. Most of the power outages were focused in southern Chilton County in the Verbena area. As of 11 a.m. on April 3, 926 customers were still without power in Chilton County, all of which are south of Clanton towards Verbena and east towards the Coosa River. Alabama Power is working quickly to restore power for residents, and it is expected that power will be restored before 10 p.m. on April 3. Chilton County Schools were closed on April 3 due to the power outages in the county.

No deaths or injuries were reported from the storms on April 2. Bean and other residents compared the storm and the tornado on April 2 to the EF-1 tornado that struck on March 17, 2021 and took a similar path from the Cooper community to Higgins Ferry Park.