Tornadoes spawned by Hurricane Danny cut a 60-mile-wide swath through north-central Alabama today, killing two people, injuring at least 20 and causing widespread damage.
The twisters howled up "Tornado Alley" and hit Parrish at 11:15 a.m. CDT, killing a woman and injuring seven people in the town of 2,500, Walker County Emergency Management Director John Burnette said.
"There were four homes completely destroyed," Burnette said. "The post office, some churches and possibly some more homes in the rural part of town sustained some damage."
The tornadoes touched down three times in the Parrish area, shattering windows, knocking out power to thousands and wrecking much of the town, about 30 miles northwest of Birmingham.
In Cullman, about 50 miles north of Birmingham, Emergency Management Director Donald Steele said, "We've got twisters on the ground . . . and things are hopping. It doesn't look good for the east side of Cullman."
Cullman County Sheriff Wendell Roden said Myrtle Barnett, about 60, of Gold Ridge, died of an apparent heart attack as she crouched in a cellar.
In Birmingham, windows were blown out and roofs torn off in one section, and Jefferson County Emergency Management Director Sadie Morgado reported that at least three twisters hit the city.
The tornadoes roared northeast, leaving a path of destruction 60 miles wide from near Selma in west-central Alabama into Tennessee. At least a dozen sightings were reported to the National Weather Service, and radar picked up more than two dozen funnel clouds in about four hours.
At least three simultaneous twisters were confirmed over Decatur, Ala., Morgan County Emergency Management Director Howard Proctor said.
Burnette said Margaret Hartley, 66, died in Parrish when her mobile home was swept away. Her daughter, Carolyn Gravitt, said she telephoned a warning to her mother and then watched helplessly from her own back door.
"At first I thought the cloud had already passed," Gravitt said. "Then when I hung up the phone and started toward the door, I saw the trailer blow away. I didn't have time to do anything."
She said she sank against the wall of her house while the tornado ripped off its roof and shattered windows.
Jim Clark, manager of Walker Parts Inc. on U.S. 78, said the storm stripped off the back of his building without touching the ground.
"I'm thankful I'm alive," he said. "I'm thankful for everybody. It's an experience you don't ever want to go through again.
"We saw the eye of the storm at the back of the building and one of the boys saw debris in the air . . . then the back of the building blew off. We tried to hide, but really there's no place to hide from one of these. We just laid down on the floor and took cover best we could. It pretty well totaled the place."
In south-central Tennessee, tornadoes touched down in Maury and Giles counties, and there were reports of injuries and damage.
Forecasters blamed the twisters on Hurricane Danny, which brought 100-mph winds and 5 to 7 inches of rain to Louisiana on Thursday.
Inspectors fanned out in 13 parishes (counties) today to assess the cost of repairs and determine whether the state would qualify for federal disaster aid. Early indications were that damage was light.
"It is at least $5 million, but relative to other hurricanes it is minimal," said Jim Marks, southwest regional manager for the Insurance Information Institute. Marks said it would be several days before an overall damage figure would be available.