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January 23, 2012
2 dead, 100 hurt in Ala. as storms pound South
The Associated Press
CLAY, Ala. — Severe storms and possible tornadoes pounded the South on Monday, injuring more than 100 people and killing at least two in Alabama, including a man who lived in an area devastated by a deadly twister outbreak in the spring.
Homes were flattened, windows were blown out of cars and roofs were peeled back in the middle of the night in the rural community of Oak Grove near Birmingham. As dawn broke, residents surveyed the damage and officials used chainsaws to clear fallen trees.
Oak Grove was hit hard in April when tornadoes ravaged Alabama, killing about 240 people, though officials said none of the same neighborhoods was struck again. Officials had to reschedule a meeting Monday to receive a study on Alabama's response to the spring tornadoes.
"Some roads are impassable, there are a number of county roads where you have either debris down, trees down, damage from homes," said Yasamie Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.
An 82-year-old man died in Oak Grove and a 16-year-old girl was killed in Clay, Jefferson County sheriff's spokesman Randy Christian said.
The storm system stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, producing a possible tornado that moved across northern Jefferson County around 3:30 a.m., causing damage in Oak Grove and other communities, Christian said.
As day broke, searchers went door-to-door calling out to residents, many of whom were trapped by trees that crisscrossed their driveways.
In Clay, northeast of Birmingham, Stevie Sanders woke up around 3:30 a.m. and realized bad weather was on the way. She, her parents and sister hid in the laundry room of their brick home as the wind howled and trees started cracking outside.
"You could feel the walls shaking and you could hear a loud crash. After that it got quiet, and the tree had fallen through my sister's roof," said Sanders.
The family was OK, and her father, Greg Sanders, spent the next hours raking his roof and pulling away pieces of broken lumber.
"It could have been so much worse," he said. "It's like they say, we were just blessed."
In Clanton, about 50 miles south of Birmingham, rescuers were responding to reports of a trailer turned over with people trapped, City Clerk Debbie Orange said.
Also south of Birmingham, Maplesville town clerk Sheila Haigler said high winds damaged many buildings and knocked down several trees. One tree fell on a storm shelter, but no one was injured, Haigler said. Police had not been able to search some areas because trees and power lines were blocking roads.
In Arkansas, there were possible tornadoes in several areas Sunday night. The storms also brought hail and strong winds as they moved through parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois and Mississippi.