A tornado ripped across northern Alabama before dawn Thursday, killing at least three people and injuring more than 100. Teams looking for more victims in the rubble found a baby unharmed beneath two wrecked trailers.
The dead included a 4-year-old girl, the coroner said.
About an hour before the tornado hit, lightning struck the office of the National Weather Service in Huntsville. The service’s Birmingham office was able to issue a warning at 5 a.m., minutes before the twister raced through Arab, but police didn’t have time to warn everyone.
“Normally they give us a siren warning, but they didn’t this morning,” Arab resident Karen Berry said. “There was nothing.”
There was just the howl of the wind in the dark - sending debris smashing through windows, tearing off roofs, pulling trees from the soil and demolishing trailers, homes and lives.
In the aftermath, rescue crews searched for people possibly trapped in the wreckage, rain pounded flattened barns, pink insulation dripped from trees and yet more wind shook cars creeping over littered roads.
No more victims were found - just one small miracle.
“We found a 1-year-old baby under two trailers,” fireman Robert Reynolds said. “He was sitting there, not making a sound.”
The last deadly funnel cloud that struck Alabama hit on Palm Sunday a year ago, killing 22 people, most in a church about 60 miles from Arab.
When the Huntsville weather service office went down, Birmingham took over watching the radar and the weather service said there was no delay in picking up the tornado and issuing a warning.
Police got the warning through deputies in a nearby county and were in the process of sending out siren vehicles to alert residents when the tornado hit, Lt. Danny Harvell said.
In Washington, Sen. Howell Heflin, D-Ala., called for a complete accounting from the weather service.
To the west in Mississippi, thunderstorms plaguing the waterlogged north rumbled south and much of the state remained under a flash flood watch.
“We’ve had areas that received 5-plus inches of rainfall and any additional water will only make it worse,” said Russell Pfost, science and operations officer at the weather service office in Jackson, Miss.