Deadly Sylvania/Rainsville/Cartersville/Dekalb County, Alabama Tornado Declared an EF-4 (4/27/2011; UPDATED 6/17/2011)


A deadly tornado was confirmed in Dekalb County, Alabama. This tornado would go on to kill 32 people and would be on the ground for 33 miles. Estimated winds peaked at 175 mph. Here is a detailed preliminary report from the Huntsville, Alabama NWS office on this tornado.

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT…UPDATED
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HUNTSVILLE AL
1120 PM CDT FRI APR 29 2011

…UPDATED STORM SURVEY INFORMATION FROM DEKALB COUNTY…

A PRELIMINARY STORM SURVEY WAS CONDUCTED TODAY /THURSDAY/ BY NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PERSONNEL IN RESPONSE TO WIDESPREAD DAMAGE THAT OCCURRED WEDNESDAY /APRIL 27/ ACROSS WESTERN DEKALB COUNTY.
INITIAL FINDINGS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

* EVENT TYPE: TORNADO
* EVENT DATE: 04/27/2011
* ESTIMATED PEAK WIND: 175 MPH
* PRELIMINARY RATING: EF-4
* PRELIMINARY PATH LENGTH: 33 MILES
* MAXIMUM PATH WIDTH: 1/2 TO 3/4 MILE
* FATALITIES: AT LEAST 32…EXACT NUMBER UNKNOWN
* INJURIES: UNKNOWN
* SUMMARY: THE TORNADO PATH IS LIKELY TO HAVE BEGUN IN THE LAKEVIEW COMMUNITY NORTHEAST OF GERALDINE. THE TORNADO THEN TRACKED NORTHEASTWARD GENERALLY PARALLEL AND JUST EAST OF STATE ROUTE 75 THROUGH FYFFE…RAINSVILLE…AND SYLVANIA.

THE SURVEY TEAM NOTICED INITIAL DAMAGE ALONG A LINE STARTING IN THE LAKEVIEW COMMUNITY. THE PATH WIDTH HERE WAS GENERALLY AROUND 50 YARDS AND INITIAL DAMAGE INCLUDED MOSTLY FELLED AND SNAPPED TREES AND STRUCTURAL DAMAGE TO SMALL BUILDINGS. EXTENSIVE DAMAGE WAS NOTED ESPECIALLY IN THE RAINSVILLE AND SYLVANIA COMMUNITIES WHERE THE PATH WIDTH WAS ESTIMATED TO BE UP TO 1/2 MILE. DAMAGE IN RAINSVILLE INCLUDED HOUSES THAT WERE COMPLETELY REMOVED FROM FOUNDATIONS…WITH DEBRIS SCATTERED FOR ABOUT ONE MILE. NEAR THIS LOCATION…TREES WERE DEBARKED AND A FEW MOBILE HOMES WERE COMPLETELY DESTROYED WITH DEBRIS STREWN FOR ABOUT A MILE DOWNSTREAM. IN THE SYLVANIA COMMUNITY…A SIMILAR SITUATION OCCURRED WITH HOUSES COMPLETELY REMOVED FROM FOUNDATIONS AND DEBRIS BLOWN FAR DOWNSTREAM. SOME OF THESE HOUSES CONTAINED ANCHOR BOLTS AND FOUNDATION STRAPS.

** UPDATED INFORMATION BELOW **
INFORMATION WAS RECEIVED FROM DEKALB COUNTY EMA WHO CONDUCTED SEVERAL AREAL SURVEYS AND DETERMINED THAT THE TORNADO DAMAGE PATH WAS INDEED CONTINUOUS FROM THE LAKEVIEW COMMUNITY THROUGH RAINSVILLE…SYLVANIA…AND THEN TO CARTERSVILLE IN NORTHEASTERN DEKALB COUNTY. FURTHER DAMAGE WAS OBSERVED TO THE NORTH OF CARTERSVILLE AND INTO NORTHWEST GEORGIA…BUT THIS IS BELIEVED TO BE ANOTHER TRACK FROM A POSSIBLE TORNADO EARLIER IN THE DAY.

GROUND SURVEYS WERE CONDUCTED FROM THE BLAKE COMMUNITY INTO SOUTHEAST SYLVANIA…THEN THROUGH HENAGAR…IDER…AND TO CARTERSVILLE. THE TORNADO DAMAGE CONTINUED ALONG THE PATH FROM THE BLAKE COMMUNITY…INTERSECTING COUNTY ROAD 27 AND CONTINUING TO THE NORTHEAST RUNNING PARALLEL BETWEEN HIGHWAY 75 AND INTERSTATE 59 THROUGH HENAGAR…IDER…AND THEN INTO CARTERSVILLE.

IN THE BLAKE COMMUNITY…THE TORNADO DAMAGE WIDTH WAS ESTIMATED TO BE ONE HALF TO PERHAPS AS MUCH AS THREE QUARTERS OF A MILE WIDE. ALONG COUNTY ROAD 27 JUST SOUTHEAST OF THE BORDER WITH THE SYLVANIA
COMMUNITY…SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE WAS OBSERVED. ALL EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR WALLS OF SEVERAL HOMES WERE COMPLETELY DESTROYED WITH PARTIAL BLOCK AND MORTAR FOUNDATIONS REMAINING. IN ONE INSTANCE…A
CONCRETE SLAB THAT SERVED AS A PORCH WAS DISPLACED A FEW FEET AND BROKEN IN HALF. SOME HARDWOOD TREES IN THE AREA WERE STRIPPED WITH NO STUBS OF ANY BRANCHES REMAINING AND WERE PARTIALLY DEBARKED. THE MOUNTAIN VIEW BAPTIST CHURCH…WHICH WAS JUST INSIDE THE SYLVANIA COMMUNITY ALSO SUSTAINED SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE. AN OLD ONE STORY PORTION OF THE CHURCH DATING TO 1902 AND CONSTRUCTED OF A BRICK AND MORTAR EXTERIOR ON WOOD FRAME WALLS WAS COMPLETELY DESTROYED. A RECENT TWO-STORY ADDITION TO THE CHURCH CONSTRUCTED IN 2004 AND CONSISTING OF SIMILAR BUILDING MATERIALS WAS PARTIALLY DESTROYED…WITH MOST EXTERIOR WALLS AND NEARLY ALL INTERIOR WALLS FALLEN. A CONCRETE BLOCK AND MORTAR FOUNDATION WAS ALL THAT REMAINED OF A HALLWAY ADJOINING THE TWO BUILDINGS.

FURTHER TO THE NORTHEAST ALONG COUNTY ROAD 112 JUST EAST OF SYLVANIA AND NEAR THE HIGH POINT COMMUNITY…A COUPLE OF ELECTRICAL TRANSMISSION METAL TRUSS TOWERS WERE COMPLETELY BENT OVER AND
PARTIALLY TWISTED. SEVERAL HOMES ALONG COUNTY ROAD 112 WERE ALSO COMPLETELY DESTROYED WITH INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR WALLS ALL COLLAPSED…BUT LARGE DEBRIS PORTIONS REMAINED NEARBY.

FARTHER TO THE NORTHEAST…JUST SOUTH OF THE IDER COMMUNITY ALONG COUNTY ROAD 17…THE TORNADO WIDTH WAS ESTIMATED TO BE ABOUT ONE HALF MILE WIDE. IN THIS LOCATION…SEVERAL HOMES WERE DESTROYED WITH
EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR WALLS ALL BLOWN AWAY. BLOCK AND MORTAR FOUNDATIONS REMAINED. MOST HARDWOOD TREES WERE COMPLETELY STRIPPED AND DEBARKED IN THIS AREA OF DAMAGE.

SOUTH OF CARTERSVILLE AND NEAR THE BLEVINS MILL COMMUNITY…TREES WERE SNAPPED AND FELLED…BUT THE DAMAGE PATH HERE WAS REDUCED TO ABOUT 50 YARDS AS THE TORNADO APPEARED TO WEAKEN.

FURTHER SURVEYS WILL BE CONDUCTED THIS WEEKEND TO REVIEW WITH WORST HIT AREAS OF DAMAGE ALONG THE PATH. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THIS TORNADO…INCLUDING PATH WIDTH…LENGTH AND MAXIMUM INTENSITY IS
STILL SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN HUNTSVILLE WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT OF DEKALB COUNTY…AND OTHER CITIZENS…SOME OF WHOM EVEN VOLUNTEERED TIME AND INFORMATION DURING THEIR CLEANUP
EFFORTS TO HELP IN CONDUCTING THIS STORM SURVEY.

Author’s note: Due to a NOAA flyover on May 4th, this tornado was upgrading to an EF-5 on Friday, June 17, 2011. Here is additional information written on June 15th, 2011 to further prove that this tornado was an EF-5.

UPDATED SURVEY INFORMATION GATHERED ON JUNE 15TH:

FOR THE PURPOSES OF FURTHER STUDY, THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FOCUSED PRIMARILY ON A NARROW CORRIDOR OF INTENSE DAMAGE EXTENDING FROM SKAGGS ROAD TO LINGERFELDT ROAD (ALSO KNOWN AS COUNTY ROAD 180) EXTENDING TOWARD COUNTY ROAD 514. ALONG SKAGGS ROAD, A STONE HOUSE WAS COMPLETELY OBLITERATED WITH MUCH OF THE INTERIOR DEBRIS STREWN WELL AWAY FROM THE STRUCTURE. A SUPPORTING LARGE CEMENT AND STONE PILLAR WAS RIPPED COMPLETELY OUT OF THE GROUND. ANOTHER HOME ALONG SKAGGS ROAD WAS ALSO LEVELED COMPLETELY TO THE GROUND. THE NOAA OVERFLIGHT SHOWED SIGNIFICANT GROUND SCARRING IN THIS AREA AND A WALK THROUGH THE NEARBY FIELDS SHOWED LARGE POT MARKS AND OTHER SECTIONS OF DISTURBED GROUND.

SLIGHTLY NORTHEAST ALONG LINGERFELDT ROAD, NUMEROUS HOMES WERE LEVELED
COMPLETELY TO THEIR FOUNDATION WITH VEHICLES AND DEBRIS STREWN FOR HUNDREDS OF FEET. OVERHEAD PHOTOS AND FOLLOW-UP VISUAL CONFIRMATION REVEALED A MANGLED VEHICLE TOSSED WELL INTO A RAVINE AND RESTING UP IN THE REMAINDER OF TREES. AT 1608 LINGERFELDT ROAD/CR 180 A LARGE TWO STORY BRICK HOME WAS COMPLETELY OBLITERATED WITH SEVERAL OF THE SUPPORTING ANCHORS RIPPED OUT OF THE GROUND. A CONCRETE PORCH WAS RIPPED OFF WITH PIECES STREWN UP TO 150 YARDS. A SECTION OF THE ASPHALT DRIVEWAY WAS PULLED UP. IN ADDITION, AN ANCHORED LIBERTY SAFE WEIGHING 800 POUNDS WAS PULLED OFF ITS ANCHORAGE AND THROWN INTO A WOODED AREA 600 FEET AWAY. WHEN FOUND, THE SAFE’S DOOR HAD BEEN RIPPED OPEN AND COMPLETELY OFF. A LARGE PICK-UP TRUCK AT THIS RESIDENCE WAS FOUND MANGLED IN PIECES OVER 250 YARDS AWAY IN THE SAME WOODED AREA. THE RESIDENTS OF THE HOME SURVIVED IN A NEARBY STORM PIT. OF NOTE THE STORM PIT WAS PARTIALLY EXPOSED BY THE TORNADO WITH DIRT BEING SUCKED UP AND PULLED AWAY AROUND THE OPENING. NEXT DOOR A MOBILE HOME WAS COMPLETELY DISINTEGRATED. THE RESIDENTS OF THE MOBILE THERE ALSO SURVIVED IN A STORM PIT.

THIS SECTION OF DAMAGE FROM SKAGGS ROAD TO LINGERFELT ROAD NEAR THE INTERSECTION WITH CROW LANE WAS DEEMED TO BE EF-5 IN INTENSITY.

IT SHOULD ALSO BE NOTED THAT SEVERE DAMAGE, NEAR EF-5 IN INTENSITY WAS NOTED IN A CORRIDOR FROM CR 515 THROUGH A NEIGHBORHOOD ALONG COUNTY ROAD 441. IN THE EAST AND SOUTH ENDS OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD, MANY ONE AND TWO STORY HOMES WERE LEVELED TO THEIR FOUNDATION WITH DEBRIS SCATTERED SOME DISTANCE. SEVERAL CARS WERE THROWN A LARGE DISTANCE IN THIS AREA. THERE WAS EVIDENCE OF GROUND SCARRING AS WELL AS SOME SIDEWALK PAVEMENT PULLED UP IN THIS LOCATION. HOWEVER, SOME OF THE HOMES IN THIS AREA APPEARED TO BE PUSHED OFF THEIR FOUNDATION INITIALLY WITH LIMITED ANCHORAGE. THUS, THE DAMAGE WAS DEEMED HIGH END EF-4 IN THIS AREA.

THESE FINDINGS ARE STILL PRELIMINARY AND ARE SUBJECT TO ADJUSTMENT BEFORE A FINAL REPORT IS COMPLETED. ALSO NOTE THAT THE FINAL REPORT MAY INCLUDE A SLIGHT ADJUSTMENT TO THE BEGINNING POINT OF THE TRACK.

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9 thoughts on “Deadly Sylvania/Rainsville/Cartersville/Dekalb County, Alabama Tornado Declared an EF-4 (4/27/2011; UPDATED 6/17/2011)

  1. Accurate data. We are near the Lakeview area. We stood outside our storm shelter at Geraldine and watched the huge rotating cell approaching us from behind a tree line. We believed it was on the ground and expected the very worst. As it neared us we saw it was not on the ground …but as it approached us it put down a vortex on its right side and quickly sucked the vortex back onto the cell. I looked up into it as though it were a huge spaceship hovering over us. Words cannot describe the somber feeling we had as it passed just above us. We began texting people in its path but the tests would not go through due to interference from the storm. In light of what had happened all day before its approach, we knew the storm would yield a heavy toll of destruction. I wished everyone was underground as we were. Rainsville is my hometown and children and grandchildren were there. None of my family perished. But we knew many of those who did. One was a former schoolmate and his wife. So…so…sad. So grateful the death toll was not more. Our University of Alabama daughter weathered the storm there with minimal damage but lost friends to the storm.

    Again, good post. We are interested in all details available.

    1. I appreciate it. Thank you. Glad to hear your daughter got through it fine. Sad to hear about the loss of life. I know a couple friends on Twitter that live in Tuscaloosa and have been helping with the cleanup in Tuscaloosa.

  2. Thank you for the detailed information and for your site. Our Carpenters for Christ group is travelling to Mountain View Baptist Church in a little over a week to begin helping construct a new building for them; please keep all concerned in prayer!

  3. A quick and economical solution for protection from a tornado is to procure and utilize something that is readily available and is constructed so that it would take all the punishment any tornado could give it and survive.

    Cargo ships carry hundreds of thousands of “cargo containers” that are constructed out of heavy gauge corrugated steal, weigh over 5,000 lbs empty. They are strong enough that they can be stacked 5 and 6 high without the ones on the bottom being damaged and that is when they are full with many more thousands of pounds of cargo inside them. Used ones are plentiful and for the square footage, cheaper than anything else of the market at less than $4,000 for a used 40’ X 8’ unit. That would give 320 square feet of space that would allow enough seating room for over 60 people by having benches on both sides and down the middle. The doors could be easily modified so that they could be opened and shut from the inside as well as the outside.

    Sitting on the ground anchored down would protect those 60 people from winds in excess of 200mph till a storm passed. If partially buried in the side of a hill so that three sides are protected by the surrounding soil, a container could withstand winds many more times stronger than any tornado has ever produced.

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