A storm that intermittently dropped tornados over a 125-mile path across Alabama and Georgia cut through Randolph County Thursday night and left behind significant destruction to homes, churches, trees and more.
There were no reports of any fatalities or serious injuries, a remarkable fact given the damage that the storm produced. But while physical harm was limited, the emotional toll and the long road to recovery for some will be monumental.
According to preliminary surveys, the local tornado touched down near Sikesville near the Randolph-Clay County line before taking aim at the Corinth community, one of the hardest hit residential areas in the county.
The tornado continued along a path that ran basically parallel to Highway 22 just north of Roanoke and crossed 431 near Rock Stand before unleashing more destruction on County Road 59 on its way to Georgia.
Virtually no one in the Corinth Community on County Road 43 was spared from the tornado's wrath. One group of homes belonged to the Bassett family, with Ruth Bassett's home having most of its roof torn off. Fortunately, Mrs. Bassett was not in the house when the storm came through. She and other members of the community took shelter in a storm cellar that the Bassett family had built some 20 years ago.
The shelter is carved into a hill behind the home of Chan Bassett. Chan Bassett and the 10 people who squeezed into the shelter had to barricade the door with a 2x4 in order to keep it closed as the storm passed.
When they emerged from the cellar, Chan Bassett saw that the storm had blown out multiple windows on his home and flipped his fishing boat and its trailer and thrown them against the back wall of the house.
The wooded area a couple of hundred yards away at the bottom of the hill was nothing but a swath of broken trees, snapped off at the base.
That path led to the home of Cory and Erica Strength who had a major portion of their roof ripped off and saw that the awning on their front porch had collapsed under a fallen tree.
Behind the Strengths' home, two metal out buildings were completely blown away and multiple metal sheets were wrapped around the few trees that remained standing.
Strength, like many in Randolph County, was in his safe place in his home watching live storm coverage by his father Don Strength when the storm began.
Don Strength, who publishes daily weather reports and provides live emergency coverage online when needed through his Dr. Don's Weather Page, was on the air and was audibly shaken when he reported the location of the tornado.
"I've got babies in that area, so y'all bear with me," he said on the air.
He was quickly able to get assurance that his family was safe and continued on with the broadcast as the storm continued.
Multiple homes and buildings in the Rock Stand Community were affected before the storm crossed County Road 59 and knocked down several trees on the home of Ty Dukus.
Dukus and his family were hovelled under the stairs in their home when the storm passed. He said from inside their home they didn't hear or feel the impact of the trees as they fell all around his yard, but when he went outside he saw that multiple trees had landed on the house and done significant structural damage to the walls and roof.
A little further down the road, an old cabin that belonged to Roanoke's Tinney family had the roof completely torn off, and one of the exterior walls was collapsed. According to reports no one was in the cabin when the storm struck.
Across the road from the cabin the path of the storm was evident, particularly in an aerial photo provided by Sid Hare that showed a wide swath of trees completely lying down where the storm either uprooted them or snapped them at the trunk.
In its time in Randolph County the storm was classified as an EF-2 tornado, with winds as strong as 135 miles per hour. After it crossed the state line it intensified to an EF-4, with winds as strong as 200 miles per hour on its path through Franklin and Newnan.
In all, the storm cell that produced the tornado traveled approximately 125 miles and was responsible for a tornado in the Lake Mitchell area of Chilton and Coosa Counties before making its way here.
Recovery efforts are fully under way, and supplies and volunteers are still needed as those efforts continue. You can contact the Randolph County EMA at 256-357-0014 to find out how you can help. You can also donate to a recovery fund set up by the United Way of East Central Alabama at uweca.org/randolph-county-tornado-relief-fund/.