Pike County weathers storm (video, photos)

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Curtis James’ home in Brantley Mobile Home Park on U.S. Highway 231 in Troy was demolished after a tornado ripped through the park about 10:30 p.m. James was trapped inside his home on Christmas night until firefighters assited him in climbing out. | PHOTO BY ROBBYN BROOKS

The day after at least one confirmed tornado ripped through Pike County, neighborhoods began the long process of cleaning up.

Emergency officials reported that Brantley Trailer Park in Troy along U.S. Highway 231 took the brunt of what the National Weather Service said was at least a strong F1 tornado. Debris from damaged and destroyed mobile homes was scattered across all lanes of the neighboring highway as firefighters and first responders rushed to the scene shortly after 10:30 Christmas night in an effort to free people who were entrapped in their homes.

Curtis James said he was at home, in bed, watching television when the tornado approached the mobile home park.

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“It sounded like a loud gust of wind. My TV and electricity went off first and my trailer shifted,” James said. “Before you knew it, it hit and it was gone.”

James said he took shelter as best he could, using a blanket to try and shield himself from glass and debris. When the tornado passed, he was able to crawl out, with the help of firefighters. James said he heard his neighbor calling to him for help. She, too, was entrapped.

A tree fell on James’ home. He said he believes if the tree had not anchored his mobile home, somewhat, it would have blown away.

“[My neighbor’s] trailer is gone. It picked his trailer up and it’s gone,” James said. “I feel very blessed to be here without any injuries.”

Despite the devastating damage at Brantley Mobile Home Park, no one was hurt.

Troy Mayor Jason Reeves went to the mobile home park Tuesday night to assess damage and check on residents.


“I am surprised no one was injured. As bad as the damage is, you would have thought that someone would be hurt,” Reeves said. “I am just very grateful and thankful that nobody got hurt.”

Jessica Drivas also lives in Brantley Mobile Home Park and remembers Christmas night 2012 as the worst night ever. She was aware that tornado warnings had been issued for the Troy area, so when she heard a loud roaring noise she “threw” her children in the bathtub.

“That’s a bad thing to say, that I threw my children in the bathtub, but that was the safest place I knew,” Drivas said. “There was this whistling noise. The most eerie sound. Like some kind of terrible beast. Then, it was over for us. Real quiet.”

While there were no injuries reported in Troy, a Goshen man was transported for injuries after first responders reported pulling him from a wooded area near where his home once stood. Neighbors identified the debris and smashed vehicles on property off of County Road 2214 as belonging to Clark Coggins.

Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas and deputies spent Wednesday checking on residents and blocking roadways in the Goshen area so that crews could tend to downed and damaged power lines.

“It looks like the tornado started outside of Goshen and hit two chicken houses. It damaged some equipment and a barn and continued to travel up the county road.”

Thomas said the National Weather Service was in Pike County Wednesday assessing damage and trying to determine whether the tornado was a strong F1 or possible F2. It appeared, early Wednesday, that the tornado was as wide as 600 yards.

He and other officials, including the NWS, will survey the damage by helicopter Thursday.

Dee Brundidge was at his Goshen home when the violent tornado made its way through the area and ripped the roof off of his trailer Christmas night. He and nine family members survived the terrifying ordeal.

“It got really quiet,” Brundidge said. “It was a quick three or four minutes. There was a lot of roaring. You actually hear the train sound that people tell you you’ll hear.”

Brundidge said he grabbed his wife and pulled her into a closet. The window his mother was near shattered and she ran into the living room to shield the children who were there.

“I just heard, like a piece of paper rip. I didn’t know it was the roof at the time,” Brundidge recalled. “We are blessed, truly blessed.”

Brundidge’s aunt, Annette Brundidge, said friends and neighbors pitched in to get the family’s clothing and other small items out of the rain.

“Some people took things to their trailers and we put things in cars,” Annette Brundidge said. “A trailer was going to be brought out [Wednesday] for us to store things until we can make other arrangements. People have been so good.”

Wednesday morning, Marcus Hinton who also lives on CR 2214 stood surrounded by the rubble that was once his home, his barn and his belongings.

“We’ve lost everything,” Hinton said. “But God is good. He preserved what we need to survive. God shows us the way.”

Hinton and his family were visiting other family members in LaGrange, Ga. Tuesday night when the tornado tore a path through Pike County. When the sun came up Wednesday morning, the damage was revealed. The Hinton home had been ripped open, the barn had been flattened and the storage house had been blown away.

“It got everything else, the tractor, the truck, the motorcycle and the four-wheeler,” Hinton said. “I’ve got friends who are helping go through all the debris, trying to salvage anything they can. We lost it all, but we are so thankful that we were away and nobody got hurt. We will survive all this. That’s what’s important.”

Earlier in the evening, areas surrounding Brundidge also sustained damage from the severe weather that plagued Alabama on Christmas day.

Glen Adkins, who lives in the Tennille community, is not sure that he heard the “gosh awful roar” that his sister Shea Adkins heard Christmas night.

“I just heard the snapping of debris and I was trying to get my children to safety, so I don’t remember the roar,” said Adkins, who is member of the Brundidge Volunteer Fire Department. “I heard on the weather radio that a tornado was moving toward Pea River.

“I knew it could be coming our way so I got the children in a closet and it was over in a split second. It was here and then it was gone.”

In its wake, the tornado left a path of destruction in the usually sleepy community.

“We’ve got trees down all over the place and fences,” Adkins said. “We’ve got roof damage and our rental trailer was damaged. The people were in the trailer but they got in the bathroom. After the tornado was gone, some people went in and got them out. They were not hurt.”

Adkins said one of his chicken houses was damaged by the tornado. His dad and sister, who live just down the road, were home and his sister heard the tornado coming.

“At first, I thought it was the train because we can hear the train, but it was too loud,” Shea Adkins said. “I yelled to Daddy that a tornado was coming. We were running into everything trying to get to a safe place in the house. It was over in no time. We have trees down but nothing else was damaged.”

Glen Adkins said he didn’t think historic Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church sustained any damage. The church is on the same road as Adkins – County Road 4425.

Adkins said a nearby neighbor lost his barn and he heard his house was lifted off its foundation on one side.

“Nobody out this way was hurt so we were all blessed,” he said.

Crews worked all Christmas night and into Wednesday to repair damage to the electric system in Pike County. The South Alabama Electric Cooperatives reported that at the peak of the outage, an estimated 2,000 SAEC members were without power. At about 11 a.m., that number had already lowered to 847.

According to Max Davis, general manager for SAEC, 15 poles had to be replaced and many lines were downed.

Other damage included 15 trees down across the road in different locations within a two-mile stretch in Goshen, Sheriff Thomas reported.

Thomas said he was grateful to SAEC crews, and to volunteer firefighters, deputies and area residents who pulled together on Christmas night to take care of community members in need. Thomas said County Commissioner Joey Jackson also came out with his own equipment to help the road department clear debris for safe travel.

“They’ve done an outstanding job. Everyone came together, as I knew they would in this community,” Thomas said. “They always do.”

The NWS Storm Prediction Center documented at least 15 tornado reports on Tuesday. If that number holds, it would surpass the record of most tornadoes on Christmas Day – 12 in 1969.