By Nick Austin, Meteorologist / Reporter - bio | email
FORT PAYNE, AL (WRCB) -- New power lines near Fort Payne High School remind residents of the devastation from Monday's severe storms. A pile of mangled metal which used to be the school's jumbo-tron is another.
Superintendent Jim Cunningham says running monthly emergency drills paid off when the athletic fields had to be cleared in a quick, orderly fashion.
"We were able to get the students that were at the afternoon practices to a gymnasium basement, to a safe area," explains Cunningham.
There were no injuries or fatalities. Wind also damaged the roof, canopies and fences. The school's power was restored quickly and classes was delayed only a few hours the next morning. Overall, Cunningham realizes it could have been worse.
"I don't think it could have gone any better, if you have to have a storm, than it went for us that day," Cunningham adds.
While the high school escaped major damage, a business and its adjacent warehouse across the street were no match for the 90-plus mile-per-hour straight-line winds.
"I'm blessed. I'm blessed to be alive," explains owner Chris Long. "Very intense experience."
Chris Long was tying up loose ends in the office that late afternoon when storm sirens sounded. He thought he had plenty of time to take cover, but suddenly the warehouse caved in and was all but destroyed. Luckily most of the office remained intact.
"It was real short. It didn't last long, and it wasn't loud or anything like that. It was really quick, and then it was over," recalls Long.
He's thankful to still have his home. Many others in northeast Alabama after the April 27, 2011 tornadoes weren't as fortunate.
"Those people lost their homes. This is just my work," explains Long. "This is important to me, but I have a warm place to go, and I could take a hot shower when I was settled and done. Those people didn't have that."
Unbelievably, most of his inventory in the warehouse was spared. Long says it'll take several months to rebuild. In the meantime, with help from the community, he's storing his inventory in other available warehouse spaces.
As for Fort Payne High School, the athletic teams will play on the road until all the debris is cleared from the fields and repairs are completed.