Tornado touches down in Huntsville - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

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Tornado touches down in Huntsville

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Funnel Cloud Approaching East of Chapman (Via Send It To 48) Funnel Cloud Approaching East of Chapman (Via Send It To 48)
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(Via Send It To 48) (Via Send It To 48)
(Via Send It To 48) (Via Send It To 48)

By Trang Do - bio | email and Margo Gray
Posted by Dana Franks - email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A tornado touched down in Huntsville early Thursday evening, causing damage to several areas and injuring at least three people.

The storm was shown live on WAFF 48 News' ALFA camera network, and video of the twister was captured just moments after it passed over WAFF 48's studio.

There are several pockets of damage across Huntsville. Emergency crews were working to clear debris from Seminole Drive to Chapman Mountain.

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Johnson Towers and Butler Terrace on Seminole Drive near Governors Drive sustained heavy damage.  Windows were blown out at Johnson Towers, and the rental office at Butler Terrace lost its roof.

There was also significant damage in the Old Town and Five Points areas near Pratt Avenue and Andrew Jackson Way.

WAFF 48 News was the first crew on the scene along Oakwood Avenue and Maysville Road. Dozens were out of their homes surveying the damage and looking around in disbelief.

The tornado had the power to toss a truck into a home when it touched down along Oakwood Avenue. It was a complete shock for Gladys Cox, who was home when the truck came crashing through her front porch.

"I went outside and found a truck," Cox said. "One was laying on the ground and another person was sitting on the steps."

Many were shaken who simply on their way home.

"Everything started swirling around, around and I knew what it was," said another witness. "I looked up the street and this truck was just leaving the ground."

In minutes, trees were uprooted, debris flung across streets, and concrete ripped from the ground. Witnesses said it happened so fast they had little time to react.

"We seen all the debris, heard the lines popping and it was just tearing everything up," said a witness.

David Hutto says he turned off the road just in time and hide in a ditch with his wife.

"That was a scary feeling watching that coming over those houses, and that debris slinging and popping," Hutto said.

Some were even brought to tears knowing what could have been.

"I just feel really lucky and fortunate," Cox said.

The worst of the tornado damage was in the Old Town neighborhood of Huntsville. The front part of one historic home was torn down after a large tree toppled onto it.

Emile Alt said she's lucky to be alive, after her family left their home just minutes before the tornado hit.

"Those point three rooms are damaged pretty bad," Alt said. "The ceilings are all falling down and part of the walls, but it's all still standing."

All of Huntsville and Madison County's emergency response agencies are working together tonight to restore order. Jackson Way Baptist Church on Andrew Jackson Way was ground central for all those agencies coordinating in this effort.

The tornado came and left quickly, but in its wake left a mess for city and county leaders to deal with.

"It's not going to be cleared up totally tonight," said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. "It'll probably take all the way through tomorrow. So we're going to need some help all the way through Friday."

It's an even more difficult task considering most of the affected areas of Old Town and Five Points around Holmes Avenue is without power.

"Most of the power should be on sometime late tonight," said Huntsville Utilities spokesman Bill Yell. "It may be tomorrow or later before we get all service restored to that area."

Despite the damage, first responders say there's a lot to be grateful for.

"We're very fortunate and blessed that we did not have large scale injury or death at this point that we're aware of," said Huntsville Police Deputy Chief Mark Hudson.

And Huntsville leaders said people in other parts of town can help in a very important way.

"We still have a large task in front of us before this area is safe," Hudson said. "So please, if you do not live here, stay away."

It's a big help to residents who remain in shock.

"A tornado just comes and hits you and is gone and you have no idea what happened," Alt said.

Hudson said it's likely the department will put out a call for mutual aid to other agencies outside of Madison County to help in the effort.

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