BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A terrifying nighttime tornado that blasted through suburban Birmingham, trapping entire families in the remnants of shattered homes and killing a teenager sheltering in his basement, left a trail of destruction Tuesday that stunned even longtime residents used to Alabama's violent weather.
Tim Herring, who survived the twister by huddling in a bathtub with wife Patti Herring as roaring winds ripped off the roof of their house and splintered walls, had followed weather forecasts during the day and didn't expect the worst until it happened late Monday.
“I've lived here 64 years. I wasn't too worried,” he said. Herring added: “I've helped folks after tornadoes. This time, it's us.”
Across the road, Jason Williams struggled to explain how he, his wife Renee and their two daughters made it out alive after their home collapsed, trapping them in the basement shelter where they'd sought refuge.
“God had his mighty hand on us. That's all I can say. God protected us last night,” said Williams, who had a cut on his forehead and bruises on his legs but was otherwise OK.
Many others narrowly escaped with their lives. At least 30 people were injured as the tornado carved a 10-mile (16-kilometer) path through Birmingham's northern suburbs, an area severely damaged by a much larger tornado a decade ago.
On one road after another, pieces of buildings, furniture, appliances and trees were strewn about and vehicles came to rest in awkward positions, as if a child had scattered a collection of Matchbox cars.
The teen killed in the storm was pronounced dead at the scene Tuesday morning, and several of his family members were critically injured when their home collapsed, trapping them in the basement, Fultondale Police Chief D.P. Smith said.