Nov. 15, 1989-90: A day of destruction, a year of recovery - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

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Nov. 15, 1989-90: A day of destruction, a year of recovery

(Source: WAFF Archives) (Source: WAFF Archives)
(Source: WAFF Archives) (Source: WAFF Archives)
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(WAFF) -

A tornado which caused millions of dollars in damages and killed 21 is one of the darker days in Huntsville history.

The sky the afternoon of Nov. 15, 1989 looked more like midnight, as a WAFF reporter recalled, before an F-4 tornado descended upon the city.

Airport Road was the hardest-hit area, with much of what stood there at the time reduced to rubble in a matter of moments.

37 children huddled together at Jones Valley Elementary. The tornado battered the school, destroying the second story of the building and causing material to cave in.

21 people were killed in the tornado. Hundreds more were injured.

"When you see something of that magnitude, you know what you're going to find in terms of injuries and fatalities," said then-director of HEMSI, John Kinzer. "You know it's going to be a tough night."

On the one-year anniversary of the deadly and destructive storm, WAFF Meteorologist Bob Baron presented a special looking back on the tornado, the rescue efforts that began immediately afterward, and the progress of rebuilding what was lost after 12 months.

We meet a family who lost everything at the Waterford Square Apartments, and catch up with them as they start a new life at a new home - thanks in no small part, they said, to having renters' insurance.

During the special, we also check in with reconstruction efforts at Jones Valley Elementary and Holy Spirit School, and how Huntsville City Schools and emergency management officials planned to invest more in equipment to keep people safe.

There's also a look at how Huntsville businesses and complexes along the path of destruction began to rebuild.


Be Prepared: It's everyone's job - from the storm trackers who give you your weather alerts, to you at home, ensuring you have the knowledge and supplies necessary to weather the storm. Review how to receive life-saving information and check out all our entries in the Be Prepared section.


For more information on the 1989 tornado outbreak and its effects on the Tennessee Valley landscape, the National Weather Service has an extensive chronology of events, plus photographs of the destruction as surveyed by NWS staff. Click here to learn more.

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