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Area spared in first round of severe weather

Crews with Asplundh and Alabama Power work to clear a collapsed tree limb that took out nearby power lines on Kopecky Road early Tuesday morning.  The falling limb fell on top of a car and knocked out power to a number of homes along the road. -- Tim Reeves

Crews with Asplundh and Alabama Power work to clear a collapsed tree limb that took out nearby power lines on Kopecky Road early Tuesday morning. The falling limb fell on top of a car and knocked out power to a number of homes along the road. — Tim Reeves

At one point during the night Monday, all Dallas County Emergency Management Agency Director Rhonda Abbott could do was pray; pray that the storms that had pulverized parts of Mississippi and that were bearing down on Alabama would take a different track.

Her prayers were answered; at least for Monday night.

“We not only dodged a bullet last night, we dodged a war,” Abbott said Tuesday. “While watching the radars and the coverage of the storms, I was almost in tears watching some our counties get hit over and over and over again.”

Throughout the overnight hours, severe weather stretched across Alabama spawning one tornado after another, devastating homes and businesses near Tuscaloosa, Bessemer and in the Kimberly community north of Birmingham. At one point, media outlets were tracking what looked like multiple tornadoes heading straight for downtown Birmingham, only to have those storms dissipate and then remerge further east.

And while the specific events were unexpected, the possibility of severe weather for the region was not.

“The National Weather Service did a great job of getting information out early — days ahead of time — about these rounds of severe weather,” Abbott said. “In this job, you have to stop and hope the public has taken notice of all the warnings and hope they have their plans in place.”

Abbott said the county opened up many of their storm shelters and some residents did take advantage, although she did not know how many.

“Throughout the day Monday I received calls asking about the shelters and I did have one call last night from someone in the shelter asking what the radar was showing,” Abbott said. “So, it made me feel good that the shelters were there and being used. That’s exactly what they are there for.”

As for severe weather Tuesday, Abbott said the National Weather Service has said severe weather will take place, but is continuing to update their forecasts.

“They have told us to be prepared for these rounds of bad weather and we need to be prepared accordingly,” Abbott said.

She said school officials from each of the area’s public and private schools has been updated on the weather forecasts.

“[School officials] have been staying on top of this weather from the very beginning,” Abbott said. “With school so close to the end of the year, they are trying to get as many days in as possible.

“Any chance the weather gets bad, they will make the appropriate decision for the children and their employees.”