SPC Stats

Path length: 30.24 miles

Width:  1320 yards

Fatalities:  1

Injuries:  0

Rating:  EF4

County:  Jackson (AL) / Marion (TN)

Tornado Path

SPC coordinates:  34.7948 / -85.909    End:  35.07 / -85.5

Corrected coordinates Based on Analysis of Aerial and Satellite Imagery:

Start:  34.7948 / -85.909    End: 35.070819 / -85.495398 

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Summary

A violent tornado tracked for just over 30 miles across northeastern Alabama and into southern Tennessee. The hardest-hit area was near Bridgeport, AL. EF4 damage occurred there, as several homes were leveled. Sadly a 13-year-old boy was killed, and several other people were injured in another forgotten event of the Super Outbreak.

The tornado began ¼ mile NNE of Fackler near County Road 45 at 4:05 pm CDT. Trees were sporadically uprooted, and there was minor roof damage to mobile homes. For the next 4.5 miles, the tornado remained fairly weak and hit no structures.

Fairly minor damage along County Road 133. Image from the NWS Huntsville.

The twister crossed U.S. Highway 72 near the intersection of State Highway 117 in the southeastern part of Stevenson. On Oak Hill Road, numerous trees were knocked over, and homes lost shingles. As the tornado crossed County Road 85, it destroyed a part of an old barn. Along Jericho Road, a trailer was tipped over, and a shed was torn apart.

Dramatic intensification occurred over the next mile. Twenty-four large metal-transmission towers near the Widows Creek Fossil Plant and County Road 133 were twisted and flattened to the ground. The powerful winds razed surrounding woods. Just south of the intersection of County Road 96 and State Highway 277, a house was destroyed, with two others sustaining minor damage. Two mobile homes were also rolled over, and a third was leveled.

The twister reached maximum intensity at the intersection of County Roads 255 and 256. It also obtained a peak width of 1,450 yards (0.82 miles). Nearly a dozen residences were destroyed in this area. Tragically, 13-year-old Branen Warren was killed in his home off County Road 255. His mother, Kristy, survived but was seriously injured. The sixth-grader at Stevenson Middle School played football and enjoyed fishing and video games. In al.com, his aunt Michelle Muir said, “They called him ‘The Bulldozer’ because he was pretty tough.” The Facebook image below shows the remains of the Warren house.

Hollie Beasley, her husband Kevin, and their two-year-old son Talon also lived in a home off County Road 255. Their story is documented in the book “All You Can Do Is Pray,” by James Spann. Holly worked at an attorney’s office in Scottsboro and went to work that morning. Kevin stayed with Talon at their home. Everyone knew it was going to be an active, severe weather day. A line of storms was approaching Scottsboro. Hollie went with her boss to the courthouse, where he had a case scheduled. They ended up waiting out those storms in the judge’s chambers, and then Hollie was sent home before more storms moved in.

Hollie came home to a sleeping baby and to satellite television service that was out due to “rain attenuation.” Right before 5:00 pm CDT, Hollies’ mom called to tell her that she saw on TV that a severe storm was approaching Bridgeport. Per All You Can Do Is Pray, “Hollie woke Talon and put him in the bathtub on top of a few pillows in only a t-shirt and diaper. Kevin pulled a mattress into the bathroom in case it became necessary to use for cover. Hollie, in her pajamas and no shoes, was in the bathroom with Talon and yelled for Kevin to come as the wind was picking up. She couldn’t hear him, so she left the bathroom and found him at the back door. On the way back to the bathroom, they looked out the front door and could see the dark clouds swirling.”

The couple ran back into the bathroom, and Kevin pulled the mattress over his family. The book notes that Hollie remembered the bathtub shifting from side to side, and then she lost consciousness. She woke up in her yard “approximately 50 yards from where she was inside their home. Kevin was 6 feet to her left and Talon was 6 feet to her right. She can vividly remember the sound of Talon saying, ‘mommy, mommy’ over and over. With that sound, she gained a little relief just by hearing his voice and knowing he was alive.”

The NWS determined that EF4 damage occurred to the Beasley’s single-story frame house. The home was completely swept away. Spann added in his book that the bathtub the family sheltered in disappeared. A compact car was thrown about 50 yards. A semi-truck and trailer from across the street were transported 100 yards and left near the residence. “While nothing remained of their first home, Hollie’s engagement ring and Kevin’s wallet were found in a cinderblock where the foundation of their home had once stood.” The Facebook images below show the semi-truck that was thrown 100 yards, landing near the Beasley house.

The NWS also stated that the home had the concrete slab and stairs pulled up. Using photographic evidence, we were able to determine what really happened. The house actually sat on loose cinder blocks that were mostly left behind when the structure was lofted. The porch was comprised of cinderblocks, and the inside was filled with gravel. A piece of concrete was laid on top. When the tornado hit, the cinder blocks were scattered, leaving that “slab” of concrete. The stairs were shifted onto the driveway with those blocks. This left behind the illusion of a ripped-up foundation. The NWS image and the Facebook photo show damage to the Beasley home.

Damage to the Beasley home. Note at far top the remains of the porch and cinderblock foundation. Image from the NWS Huntsville.

The Beasley’s had significant injuries but were able to walk to a neighbor’s home. That house was also destroyed, but the family there had sheltered in the basement. They were not injured. Other neighbors arrived and helped Kevin, who complained of severe pain in his chest and lower back, to a home that was not damaged. The ambulance was halted from coming into the area due to downed trees. From All You Can Do Is Pray, “Their neighbors managed to get a pick-up truck to the Beasley family and put couch cushions in the bed of the truck. They were able to get Kevin onto the cushions while Talon and Hollie rode up front.”

The family was taken to an ambulance that transported them to Highlands Medical Center in Scottsboro. Hollie had bruises all over her body but no major injuries. Talon had a skull fracture and was transferred to T C Thompson Children’s Hospital in Chattanooga. His mom was able to go with him, but Kevin had a fractured sternum and two fractured vertebrae and had to stay at Highlands.

Hollie, Kevin, and Talon were released from their separate hospitals a few days after the event, and they all recovered from their injuries. The Beasley’s lost everything from their home, including all family photos. But one was found 56 miles away in Pikeville, TN. It was a picture of Talon at four months old with his mom.

In 2012, Kevin and Hollie decided to have new family pictures taken. From All you Can Do Is Pray, “The decision was made to go back to their old home site on County Road 255. It was their first time going back to the place where they almost lost their lives. They chose not to rebuild there; they didn’t want to have to look at the area every day and be constantly reminded of what happened.” The images below are embedded from Facebook, and show some of the extensive damage that occurred in the vicinity of County Roads 255 and 256.

Northeast of the County Road 255/256 intersection along Giles Avenue, Concord UMC Church was hit. Portions of its roof and walls were destroyed. A mobile home was demolished, with the frame “twisted like a giant pretzel.” Two well-built homes were completely razed north of the church, with only piles of debris left on their foundations. Warren Mullinax owned one of these homes off Giles Avenue. He was at Arnold Air Force Base at his job, over an hour away, when the tornado roared through Bridgeport. Per an article on the Arnold Air Force Base website, Warren had stayed in touch with his wife Robyn through the day. Their last phone call was at 3:30 pm CDT. After that call, he was not able to get in touch with her. Warren finished his shift and started the commute to his home. “When I came off Monteagle Mountain it was kind of clear, and I thought maybe it missed us,” he said. “And the closer I got the more devastation I saw. Then I parked about a mile and a half from where I live. They wouldn’t let me in any farther because of trees down across the road. I just had to run the rest of the way.”

Warren made it to the site of where his home had once stood. His wife and two daughters were safe. They had sheltered initially in a hallway with a mattress over their heads. A friend who had been at the house decided to move to another safe place. Per Mullinax, “He [the friend] walked out on the front porch and saw the actual tornado coming at them out of the southwest. He ran back into the house and grabbed them and said ‘we have to get out of this house.’ They ran around and they went into the crawlspace. They said they were there no more than 10 or 15 seconds when the tornado hit.” A car was bounced approximately 70 yards near the house before coming to rest just into a section of woods. Several large trees were snapped off a few feet above the ground.

What was left of the Mullinax home. Image from Arnold Air Force Base.
A crumpled car that was thrown 70 yards from the home. Image from Arnold Air Force Base.
Another residence that was destroyed. Image from the NWS Huntsville.
An image taken by Concord UMC showing damage to their church building.

Warren and his family spent the next several weeks trying to salvage what they could from the debris. Per the article, they found some of their personal belongings and things that didn’t belong to the family. There were pieces of furniture he didn’t recognize. A car title from Cullman, AL, approximately 95 miles away, was found amongst the debris. Warren and his family received help from area churches, the Bridgeport Fire Department, and his co-workers at the Air Force Base. “A veterinarian even took care of the family dog – which was found after the storm with a shattered leg – free of charge.”

The tornado began to narrow and plowed through a combination of small fields and forest for a little over a mile. Only one residence was destroyed in that portion of the track. It then crossed 6th Street, destroying a cinder block garage and damaging a mobile home just southeast of Bridgeport. The tornado crossed the Tennessee River, producing significant destruction of forest along County Road 91. Five residences on this road received some form of irreparable damage. From here, the twister continued to shrink and weaken gradually. It eventually ascended over 700 feet along the side of a ridge.

Damage along 6th street. Image from the NWS Huntsville.
Google Earth imagery from January 23, 2012 showing the tree damage and the path extending into Tennessee.

The vortex, now only 250 yards across, entered Tennessee 5.1 miles SW of Haletown. It descended 800 feet onto Nickajack Lake, then recrossed back onto land and uprooted trees around Macedonia and Old Ladds Roads. It moved back over water for another mile. Trees were snapped and uprooted on an island where Interstate 24 crosses the lake.

After trekking on and off a spit of land, the twister moved onshore for the last time 0.8 miles north of Haletown. Sporadic trees were uprooted by the twister, causing minor damage to a couple of mobile homes. It ascended about 1100 feet up a ridgeline, moving along the top for about a mile before descending it again. The tornado dissipated 3.8 miles NE of Haletown at 4:31 pm CST.

Looking up the last ridge the tornado climbed. Google Earth imagery taken January 23, 2012.

In an April 28, 2011 article in the Jackson County Sentinel, Bridgeport Police Chief Joe Stovall said the community immediately went into recovery mode. Their goal was to “protect property and allow people who have homes in the affected area in and out to remove belongings and protect what property is left.” The National Guard Armory was set up as a shelter. The Bridgeport Lions Club served food to the victims. Wal-Mart and Lowe’s donated supplies and tarps to the families affected.

A year after the event, Tanya Pace, the Bridgeport city clerk said in an al.com article, “I’ve seen several homes rebuilt. Some just relocated. Some couldn’t go back. Several are in the process of rebuilding.” It was estimated that about 75% of the people impacted by the tornado had rebuilt a year later.

Video

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC and NCDC Databases, the April 2011 Storm Data Publication (SDP), the NWS Huntsville Event Page, the Jackson County Sentinel, and analysis of aerial and satellite imagery and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • The SPC/NCDC/SDP list a path length of 30.24 miles.
  • Analysis of the damage indicates a path length of 30.58 miles.

    Path Width:

    • The SPC/NCDC/SDP/NWS Huntsville list a maximum width of 1,320 yards (0.75 miles).
    • Analysis of the damage indicates a maximum width of 1,450 yards (0.82 miles).

      Injury Count:

      • The SPC/NCDC/SDP/NWS Huntsville list 0 injuries from this tornado. The Jackson County Sentinel reported that there were “at least a couple dozen injuries.”

        Sources:

        The Storm Prediction Center

        April 2011 Storm Data Publication

        NCDC Storm Events Database Entry-Jackson County (AL)

        NCDC Storm Events Database Entry-Marion County (TN)

        NWS Huntsville Event Summary

        Google Earth

        Google Maps

        Damage Assessment Toolkit

        April 2011 Tornado Response Imagery

        All You Can Do Is Pray by James Spann

        Concord UMC Facebook Page

        Bonner. thedailysentinel.com, K 2011, ‘Unbelievable Devastation’, Daily Sentinel, The (Scottsboro, AL), 28 Apr, (online NewsBank).

        Branen Tyreik Bulldozer Warren (1998-2011) – Find… Find a Grave. (n.d.). https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/69147065/branen-tyreik-warren

        lroop@al.com, L. R. |. (2016, April 18). Was north Alabama forgotten after the 2011 tornadoes? al. https://www.al.com/news/huntsville/2016/04/was_north_alabama_forgotten_ab.html

        Mike Marshall, T. H. T. (2011, May 7). Branen Warren, Bridgeport tornado victim. al. https://www.al.com/ht/2011/05/branen_warren_bridgeport_torna.html

        Patterson. thedailysentinel.com, D 2011, ‘Eight confirmed dead in Jackson County’, Daily Sentinel, The (Scottsboro, AL), 2 May, (online NewsBank).

        Times, T. H. (2012, April 26). One year later: North Alabama recovering after April 27 tornadoes, but ‘there will always be that scar’. al. https://www.al.com/breaking/2012/04/one_year_later_north_alabama_r.html

        Tornado victim thankful for co-worker. Arnold Air Force Base. (2011, May 20). https://www.arnold.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/409538/tornado-victim-thankful-for-co-workers-generosity/

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