EF-2 Tornado damages homes, businesses in Alabama town

Wetumpka, Ala., was struck by an EF-2 tornado -- 111-135 mph winds -- with the worst damage in downtown. Photo courtesy National Weather Service Birmingham/Twitter

Jan. 20 (UPI) — A EF-2 tornado damaged at least 25 homes, the police department, two churches and other buildings in a small town in Alabama.

The twister touched down in Wetumpka in Elmore County, about 12 miles north of Montgomery, on Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service confirmed on Twitter.

On Sunday, the NWS in Birmingham tweeted that a preliminary survey indicates the area was hit by EF-2 — 111-135 mph — that was 300 yards wide. Also, an EF-1 tornado — 86-110 mph — occurred near Booth in Autauga County.

John De Block, NWS Warning Coordination meteorologist, told the Montgomery Advertiser a two-person team is finding evidence of 120 to 130 mph winds in downtown Wetumpka.

Wetumpka’s population was 8,148, based on a 2017 U.S. Census Bureau estimate.

The injury, which was reported at 4:30 p.m., does not appear to the serious, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.

The First Presbyterian and First Baptist churches had heavy damage. The main sanctuary of the First Presbyterian was built in 1856. The church’s services Sunday morning were at the Wetumpka Depot Theater.

“If those churches were occupied, we’d be looking an entirely different situation,” De Block said.

In addition, the police department lost five cars.

Downtown Wetumpka appears to have suffered the most damage, Mayor Jerry Willis told the newspaper.

“It’s bad, when you love a place as much as we love Wetumpka, to see this devastation,” he said. “We have worked so hard to get here and to see it destroyed like this.

“We don’t know God’s plan, but we know he is in control. If this had been during the week with schools in session. If it had been Sunday morning with churches at worship, it would have been absolutely devastating as far as injuries and even fatalities. We’ll come back. We’ll clean up and come back.”

Electrical workers worked to restore power because of downed lines.



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