April 2008
Featured Articles

Agriculture Hit Hard by Yet Another Tornado

By  Suzy Lowry Geno

 
The tornado on March 15, 2008, destroyed two modern chicken houses.  
The March 15, 2008, tornado left a five and a half mile path of destruction across Blount County’s Straight Mountain leaving a huge deficit in the county’s agricultural community that will be felt for years. But while thousands of chickens were killed along with at least five head of cattle, there were thankfully no human injuries or deaths reported, according to Blount Emergency Management Deputy Director Doug Smith.

According to Smith, the tornado touched down just west of Highland Lake between 9:50 and 9:55 a.m. downing numerous trees and damaging houses in Highland Lake and the Sugar Land Lake communities.

 
  On the Holloway Farm on County 12 atop Straight Mountain in Blount County.
But the largest area of destruction was along Blount County Road 12. On the Avis Holloway Farm, the farm house was heavily damaged, a hay barn completely destroyed and two chicken houses leased to Koch Distribution completely destroyed. On March 16, Koch workers were trying to catch the remaining live chickens amid the debris. The majority of the chickens were killed.

Holloway’s niece’s two-story home, in an adjacent pasture, was totally destroyed.

Three other homes in the area were also totally destroyed and one home on nearby County 24 burned, possibly from electrical problems caused by the storm, Smith said.

During that same time a chicken house nearby burned as well. Numerous other chicken houses in the area were heavily damaged, some with entire sections of their roofs gone.

The debris trail of tin, insulation and other household items stretched almost to U.S. 231 South. Farmers spent much of the weekend removing sharp tin and other items from cattle and horse pastures throughout the area.

Holloway told reporters the hardest fact to accept was the farm had been in his family for generations and was now virtually wiped out, but all were thankful no one was hurt or injured. His niece’s family was out of town during the storm.

Early Saturday, rescue workers were hampered in removing several residents who were trapped inside their homes because trees totally blocked sections of County 29, Lakeshore Lane and other side roads. Estimates showed hundreds of trees, power lines and phone lines down in the area, with electrical service boxes pulled from the sides of many homes and farm buildings.

Straight Mountain Rescue was assisted by rescue squads from throughout Blount County, several Blount County Commission crews and others. Some rescue squads members were forced to use chain saws to cut paths for their own vehicles from their homes to allow them to get to their stations and to help others.

Alabama Power had crews on the scene throughout the weekend from throughout the state. OTELCO planned to have phone and cable service restored to the more than 700 customers who lost service during the storm by mid-week.

Smith said complete financial estimates of the storm damage and reports from the National Weather Service on the velocity of the tornado were not available at press time.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County.