Weather is definitely one of those things in life that is out of man’s control. We can have all the warnings, watches, and apps available, but we cannot do much about what is coming our way except follow proven safety protocol.
If you are a student of the Bible, you recognize that God is in charge of the weather. A cousin in Spanish Fort sent me an interesting clipping about how the weather has ramped up along the Gulf Coast. An April 15 article in The Baldwin Times states there were 31 tornadoes along the Gulf Coast from March 9 to April 15 this year (18 in southwest Alabama, 4 in northwest Florida, and 9 in Mississippi). Cody Lindsey, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Mobile, states unstable warm air and strong winds ahead of approaching cold fronts can cause water spouts, rip currents, and tornadoes that move inland.
Many of our ancestors in rural Alabama had storm pits to get below ground level and safety when tornadoes came. Some people still do, and they are a welcome addition to any home in time of need. The next best thing to having a storm pit is having a caring neighbor who does. Thank you, Keith and Wanda, for always including me. Meteorologist’s stress basements, bathtubs, and helmets; and lives have been saved by heeding their warnings. Weather data indicates April, May, and June have the most tornadoes, and July is the least likely month. The second season is listed as November and December. Cullman County has 43% more historical tornadoes than other areas in Alabama. Statistics do not matter much if the tornado hits your town.
The two story house at 207 South Broadway is one of the houses still standing in Sylacauga today that was hit hard in the March 21, 1932, tornado that hit Sylacauga. The before and after storm pictures show us that the house was heavily damaged; and if you look at the house from the side on Clay Street, you can see that brick masons were not able to match the replacement bricks. Interestingly enough the page from this 1952 phone book tells us that the house was divided into apartments. Some very prominent Sylacauga citizens lived in this house at one time: Bill Irby, Coach Harris, and C.S. Chapman. These folks touched my life and I would bet, some of you know them as well.
Warnings might occasionally disrupt our lives in times when we have to make arrangements to pick up the kids early from school, but warnings today save lives. In Belvedere, Illinois, a newspaper reported that a tornado took place at 3:00 p.m. while high school students were boarding buses already containing elementary students. Instead of sheltering inside the building, the school kept to the bus schedule. It was a poor decision. Twelve buses overturned, one driver was killed. and 300 students were injured as the buses were “tossed about like leaves into an adjacent field.” Sometimes schools today may err, but on the side of caution, when school is dismissed early or students are retained late because of ongoing weather conditions. Schools prefer not to release your student to you in the middle of a storm because being in a car is a safety issue.
One longtime weather myth is that lightning never strikes in the same place twice. One of the most interesting weather stories I have heard from our area i the story of William Cosper of Childersburg. Born in 1834, he and his wife were working inside one stormy day spinning wool into yarn in the front room of their house. Lightning struck where William was standing and set fire to his pile of wool. A month later he was standing on the porch during a rainstorm when he was struck by a bolt of lightning and killed instantly. He was buried in the Childersburg City Cemetery, and lightning struck the monument on his grave shattering it into pieces. a second monument was erected, and it, too, was destroyed by lightning. Donna J. Booth’s book of Alabama Cemeteries says, “Unable to buy another monument, the family placed brick upon his grave. They, too, were disturbed by lightning.” This article gave directions to Cosper’s grave, and, of course I had to go by and follow up on this story. I paid my respects, and marveled once again, how little we can control weather events; and although it was a sunny day, I did not visit long.
The old timers in my day were always telling us storm stories about power of the wind and rain, and now I find myself doing the same. Today, as I write, there is a powerful flooding condition in Yellowstone Park, so severe that the park is closed to visitors. I remember the great tornado of 1932 in Sylacauga as well as the rain that recently flooded many streets in Sylacauga, and it was not so long ago at that.