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Historic tornado outbreak killed about 275 people

HISTORIC TORNADO OUTBREAK

ALABAMA

March 21-22, 1932

(FROM: DARKEST HOURS by Jay Robert Nash)

 

On March 21, 1932, Marion, Alabama was the first town struck in one of the most destructive series of tornadoes to wreak havoc across seven states.  From this point at least a dozen vicious twisters ravaged the tornado belt, as they moved northeast toward Georgia and then splayed out into Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia.


A thundershower broke shortly after 3:30 in Tuscaloosa,  but after a torrential downpour, it ceased. Shortly after 4 o’clock, however, a heavy black cloud rolled up from the southwest and followed the course of the Warrior River.

Cotton bales northport 1932 (Alabama Department of Archives and history)

Cotton bales left without roof when warehouse is blown away in Northport, Alabama. A scene on the site of the cotton warehouse of Northport following the disastrous tornado that swept the region Monday March 21st. This and four other sites were hard hit, a total of 275 deaths were compiled.

Hugged the ground for the next five miles

The storm hit Lewis’ tourist camp near Northport then hugged the ground for the ground for the next five miles. Fire broke out in Northport, escaping gas, flaming mattresses and other inflammables added to the horror.

The Tuscaloosa Country Club was struck by the storm and presented a picture of war-time desolation. The clock was blown down and stopped at exactly 1 minute after 4 o’clock setting the time of the storm. Kinney Daniel’s store at the intersection of Fosters and Sanders Ferry roads was blown away and Mr. Daniels was lost in the wreckage for more than half an hour. He died at Druid City Hospital.

Other places hit were Perry County, Demopolis, Linden, Plantersville, Jemison, Talladega, Sylacauga, Cullman, Stevenson, Faunsdale and other points. Marion was hit twice on the same day. Lomax, Thorsby, Columbiana, Bethel and Paint Rock were also hit severely. Witnesses at Columbiana, where sixteen people died, told of a dark funnel-shaped cloud that cut a swath 150 yards wide. Six were killed at Lineville, Alabama.

Wedged under a tree trunk

In Chilton County, Alabama, Sheriff Gore was eating supper with his family. When the tornado struck, he was knocked unconscious. Coming to, he found himself in the yard wedged under a tree trunk. He wriggled out. “The wind was howling like mad,” he told a correspondent later. “It was flashing brilliant, blinding lightning and I heard my son call to me from across the yard. He was lying against the stump of a tree. We almost feared to rise against that wind, but both of us thought of his wife and four children, and immediately went to find them.”

Gore and his son found the family in a corn patch where they had been blown; all were unhurt. Then the Gores raced to the neighboring farm of Battle Hamilton.

Blown into a corn field

“His house was nowhere to be seen.” Gore said in semishock. “Down the road a piece we found him cut to pieces by barbed wife, hanging on a fence……Battle’s wife had been blown into their corn field and was badly injured. They don’t expect her to pull through (she didn’t) Then there was Battle’s six-month old son, Jack. We found his body in a creek….He had been drowned, if he hadn’t been killed before reaching the creek.”

The tornadoes raged on, killing twenty-nine at Demopolis, five in Pulaski, Tennessee, and thirty-four in the vicinity of Rome, Dalton, Athens and Cartersville in northeastern Georgia. In Cleveland, Tennesse, the wind from a tornado snatched an infant from its mother’s arms and dropped it to its death down a well.

Several freakish events were caused by the erratic fury of the twisters. In Dalton a man was blown to the top of a tree and a piece of wood impaled him there in a crucifixion nature. He hung there until the next day when he was taken down and moved to a hospital, where he died. Hundreds of rural dwellings were demolished by this army of tornadoes, and 268 persons were killed in four states.

Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) – 

Filled with drama, suspense, humor, and romance, DISCORDANCE continues the family saga from the Tapestry of Love series with the children of Mary Dixon who married Thomas Cottingham.

Inspired by true events and the Cottingham family that resided in 17th century Somerset, Maryland and Delaware, colonial America comes alive with pirate attacks, religious discord, and governmental disagreements in the pre-Revolutionary War days of America. Descendants of this Cottingham family eventually migrated to Alabama before it became a state.

SOURCES

  1. DARKEST HOURS by Jay Robert Nash
  2. The Tuscaloosa News March 20th and 21st, 1932

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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11 comments

  1. Gary Mack Stone

    My mother and father lived there. Mother was nine years old and dad 16 years old.

  2. Amy Parker

    The Cullman Co tornado first hit in the Brushy Pond area in the Southwest, went through the City of Cullman and then wiped out the Town of Fairview.

    1. Rickey Wallace

      One of my paternal Grandmothers sisters had married a Ray and they lived in Fairview. Her sister, Carrie, and one of Carrie’s kids along with four of the Rays (total of six) were killed in the same house. Carrie and her baby were buried near Albertville. The Rays are buried at Etha.

    2. Amy Parker

      There was this storm and then my 87 year old grandmother tells about one that the “old timers” use to talk about when she was a kid. That were so bad. It was their 1974 and 2011.

    3. The 1932 Cullman Co. tornado, once leaving the city of Cullman, followed along the path of Highway 69. It hit the community of Simcoe, before hitting the town of Fairview. The tornado destroyed Fairview School. The School had just dismissed one hour prior to the arrival of the storm. As the tornado loomed on the horizon, one of the teachers ran back inside the building to retreave some books. Her body was later discovered among the wreckage. It was reported the tornado picked up a large amount of school books and then dropped them from the sky up to 3 miles away. Nell Latham recounted the following story; As the large tornado barreled up Hwy. 69 towards Fairview, the local general merchandise store seen it coming. The store owner ran out of the store. A local patrion asked where he was going? The owner replied, “I’m getting in the pea patch. The pea patch saved my life in World War 1 and it’ll save my life again.” The patrion scoffed and went running for cover inside the building. The general merchandise was destroyed, patrion was killed, the store owner survived, lying in the pea patch.

      The town was slowly rebuilt. In the process of rebuilding, the decision was made to expand the educational advancement of the small town with a new large modern school, complete with individual grade level teachers, adding a High School. Thus in 1936, a new Fairview School was dedicated, complete with an Elementary Building, High School Building, on a new modern campus, to meet the ever growing educational needs of the community. As devastating as the 1932 tornado was, the community came back bigger and stronger than before…

  3. Alvin G Rothe Jr

    My mother survived this outbreak in her Sylacauga home. The room they were in was the only thing standing in a 2 block radius. My grandmother had just given birth to my uncle only 3 days before.

  4. Ramona Smith

    Tragic History Lesson!

  5. Fran Aldridge Danley

    My dad was in school at Alabama when this happened.He said there was a thunderstorm, but they did not realize that Northport had been destroyed until the next day. He said the destruction was unbelievable!

  6. My Grandfather,K.. Causey’s leg was broken in the tornado. He worked at the Gin in Northport at the time. I remember my Mother talk about in later years.

  7. My mother was killed in the tornado that struck Sylacauga in 1932.. Our house was demolished as were many more.

  8. The 1932 Cullman Co. tornado followed the path of Hwy 69, once leaving the town of Cullman. It destroyed Simcoe before hitting the town of Fairview. It destroyed Fairview School. School had dismissed just one hour prior to the storm. As the tornado loomed on the horizon, one of the teachers ran inside the school to retreave some books. Her body was later discovered among the wreckage. It was reported the storm picked up some school books and scattered them 3 miles from the school. Nell Latham recounted the following story; As the large tornado barreled up Hwy. 69 towards Fairview, the local general merchandise store seen it coming. The store owner ran out of the store. A local patrion asked where he was going? The owner replied, “I’m getting in the pea patch. The pea patch saved my life in World War 1 and it’ll save my life again.” The patrion scoffed and went running for cover inside the building. The general merchandise was destroyed, patrion was killed, the store owner survived, lying in the pea patch.

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