Tornado, snowstorms descend on Limestone county within 72 hours

Date: 2022-01-05 10:01:41

Jan. 4—The past week saw temperatures drop from the upper 70s to the 20s, and a tornado and winter storm warnings. Several high temperature records were reported throughout the state for Jan. 1, reaching 80 degrees in several places and breaking records set in 1952. Athens recorded a high temperature of 79 degrees.

A cold front approached Saturday evening, resulting in a tornado, thunderstorm and flash flood warnings in North Alabama. The cold front also brought plummeting temperatures and a small chance of snow became a winter storm warning for the area.

Saturday evening’s storms spawned two confirmed tornadoes in North Alabama, according to the National Weather Service. Neither storm has reports of serious injury. One twister, with maximum winds of 80 mph started in Limestone County and ended near Triana in Madison County, damaging dozens of homes and uprooting trees. The second twister, with wind estimates less than 73 mph (F0 on a wind force damage scale from F0-F5), touched down in the Hazel Green community, causing property damage and uprooting trees.

Damage also occurred in the Lester and Salem areas of Northwest Limestone County during Saturday’s storms, forcing emergency responses.

“I want to thank the fire departments, the EMA, Athens Utilities and all the volunteers who came out. It’s a pretty big mess up around the Lester community, Minor Hill, Salem and on into Elkmont,” said county commissioner LaDon Townsend.

Damage to the Greenbriar Substation power transformer was caused either by lightning from Saturday’s severe weather or from Sunday’s winter storm, officials said.

“We are working on all options simultaneously in an effort to restore power to customers. Lightning was reported during the snow, so it could have happened either day,” said Athens Utilities electric department manager Blair Davis. “If it occurred on Saturday, the damage likely became worse during this winter event, leading to outages overnight Sunday.”

Approximately 3,500 customers were left without power along County Line and in the Swancott area south of I-565.

As of late Monday afternoon, Athens Utilities continued working to repair damage to the substation.

Davis said that crews had switched as many customers as possible to other power sources and were making arrangements to bring in a mobile unit to help serve those remaining without power.

The winter storm brought a blanket of wet snow to North Alabama.

While many delays to businesses and government offices were reported, roads were mostly clear according to Limestone County Sheriff Josh McLaughlin.

“I would just be careful crossing any bridges in the northern side of the county,” he said. “They should be thawed out for the most part but we haven’t heard of any issues at all.”

The National Weather Service in Huntsville reported the following snowfall amounts in Limestone County from Sunday’s winter storm:

—SW Harvest: 6.3 inches

—WNW Madison: 5.0 inches

—SE Athens: 4.4 inches

—NW Athens: 4.0 inches

—WNW Ardmore: 3.0 inches

—N Mooresville: 2.8 inches

—Elkmont: 1.5 inches.

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