SPC Stats

Path length: 30.3 miles

Width:  1320 yards

Fatalities:  32

Injuries:  259

Rating:  F5

County:  Tuscaloosa, Jefferson

Three tornadoes were produced by one supercell that moved across parts of Central Alabama on April 8, 1998.  The first tornado (Rated F3) affected Pickens and Tuscaloosa counties, the second (Rated F5) moved through parts of Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties, and the third (Rated F2) hit parts of St. Clair County.

In this summary, we explore the F5 that began in rural sections of Eastern Tuscaloosa County, 1.5 miles east of the Warrior River.  The tornado moved through mainly unpopulated areas in Eastern Tuscaloosa County and into extreme SW Jefferson County.  The first major area hit was the Oak Grove Community.  3 deaths occurred in a mobile home and the Oak Grove School was destroyed.  A fire department was hit as the tornado crossed CR 23/54.

The tornado moved into unpopulated area for a short while before crossing CR 54 (Lock 17 Road/Warrior River Road) where numerous houses and other structures were damaged and destroyed including another volunteer fire department building.  Eleven deaths were reported in this area.

The tornado crossed Rock Creek just west of Rock Creek Road, a steep, hilly unpopulated area.  The tornado path then moved into a fairly densely populated area all the way until it dissipated in Pratt City.  Areas affected included Pinedale Estates, McGregor Estates, Rockwood, Sylvan Springs, Wylam Heights, Edgewater, McDonald Chapel, Minor, West Ensley, and Pratt City.  Pratt City is also within the city limits of Birmingham.  Four deaths occurred in Sylvan Springs, two in Wylam Heights, nine in Edgewater, two in McDonald Chapel, and one in West Ensley.

According to American Red Cross surveys, 608 homes were destroyed, 556 sustained major damage, and another 810 had minor damage.  There were 1,164 families with homes that were unlivable.  Forest service officials estimated 4,000 acres of timber was destroyed in Jefferson County and 1,000 acres in Tuscaloosa County.

Details from the NWS Summary of the Event.

Tornado Path

Click Map To Enlarge

SPC coordinates:  Start: 33.42 / -87.35   End:  33.58 / -86.87      

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

Note:  I plotted the official coordinates from the SPC.  The end point is north of Pratt City.  The summary states the tornado dissipated in Pratt City.  I found in the NWS event page a path map.  I have attached that.  The ending point on that map is over Pratt City.  I deduce the ending lat/lon from SPC is incorrect.  

Map of path via NWS Birmingham

Photos via NWS Birminham Summary from Jefferson County EMA.

Damage Photos via April 1998 Storm Data Publication

Videos

Newspaper Clippings

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the April 1998 Storm Data Publication and a Summary from the NWS Birmingham and found the following differences:

Path length:

  • SPC lists a path length of 30.3 miles.
  • All other sources have just a slight path length of 30.6 miles.

Width:

  • SPC/NCDC and Storm Data all list the width at 3/4 of a mile.  
  • The NWS summary states, “at it’s widest point was half a mile wide.”

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