28th anniversary of deadly south Huntsville tornado - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

28th anniversary of deadly south Huntsville tornado

(Source: WAFF file) (Source: WAFF file)
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

It was 28 years ago that a deadly tornado tore through south Huntsville.

Just after 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 1989, a deadly F-4 tornado ripped through south Huntsville with a direct hit on Airport Road. The tornado was on the ground for more than 18 miles and measured as wide as 880 yards.

The storm ended up killing 21 people and injuring hundreds more.

Roughly 50 people, including 37 students, were inside Jones Valley Elementary School when it collapsed as the tornado rolled over Garth Mountain during an after-school day care program. Everyone in the school made it out alive thanks to the heroic acts of teachers, painters and custodians.

A memorial now stands at the corner of Airport Road and Whitesburg Drive to honor the memory of the lives lost that day.

Emergency managers say that the 1989 storm in particular called for an upgrade to the area's warning systems.

"That storm was actually responsible for lots of improvements in warning. For instance, the upgraded outdoor warning sirens started after that, new mobile command posts after that, Doppler radar came to Huntsville shortly after '89 as a result of that storm," said Scott Woshram of Huntsville-Madison EMA.

November is our second severe weather season in the Tennessee Valley. Since 1950, 46 tornadoes have touched down during the month of November, which ranks it the fourth most tornado-prone month. Ten of those tornadoes touched down last year on Nov. 29 and 30. One of those was an EF-3 tornado that killed three people in Jackson County.

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