BIRMINGHAM, AL (WAFF) - The tornado that devastated the Hackleburg community has now been classified as an EF-5, the strongest on a scale measuring tornadoes.
NWS meteorologists surveyed damage across Marion County and determined that it was consistent with a violent tornado. Winds were estimated up to 200 mph. The tornado appeared to touchdown southwest of Hamilton near Highway 19 and County Road 22 where some tree damage was discovered.
After touchdown, however, the tornado widened considerably and became deadly as it moved along Highway 43 southwest of Hackleburg. The tornado moved into Hackleburg where several subdivisions were destroyed along with Hackleburg High School and the Wrangler Plant.
The funnel then moved northeast and generally paralleled Highway 43 and moved toward Phil Campbell where significant damage continued. Along the damage path, thousands of trees were knocked down, several hundred structures were damaged and at least 100 structures were destroyed.
National Weather Service meteorologists and experts in storm damage assessment found that vehicles had been tossed upwards of 150-200 yards and one well built home with four brick walls was leveled and the debris from the home was tossed to the north over 40 yards.
Those indicators, as well as large amounts of wind rowing - the strewing of building materials in straight lines - helped experts to determine the EF-5 status of the tornado.
The tornado was on the ground for over 25 miles in Marion County before continuing into the Tennessee Valley. The damage swath was three-quarters of a mile wide in many places, according to the NWS.
Meteorologists will continue the assessment of storm damage from the tragically historic day of tornadic activity and severe weather across central Alabama on Wednesday April 27.
There were two waves of widespread severe weather. The first moved through during the early morning hours across northern portions of central Alabama producing widespread damaging straight line winds and isolated tornadoes. The second wave involved numerous supercell thunderstorms and produced long lived, strong-to-violent tornadoes across the northern two-thirds of central Alabama with widespread and catastrophic damage in several locations.
The National Weather Service is looking for storm reports from all our customers and partners across central Alabama. If you witnessed or are aware of any storm damage due to high winds or tornadoes, please contact your local emergency management office or call the NWS storm reporting hotline at 1-800-856-0758.