SPC Stats

Path length: 18 miles

Width:  750 yards

Fatalities:  11

Injuries:  144

Rating:  F4

County:  Tuscaloosa

24 tornadoes were confirmed on December 16, 2000.  Half of those were in the state of Alabama including the strongest of the day.  It was a devastating F4 that pushed 18 miles through Tuscaloosa County.  11 were killed and 144 injured.

The tornado developed in the southwestern part of the county and moved northeast.  It hit homes south of Shelton State Community College.  As it crossed SR 69, it hit a shopping center including a Winn Dixie.  

At US 82, a number of mobile homes were destroyed and several of the deaths occurred here.  Minor damage occurred to the JVC manufacturing facility at I-20/59.  At exit 77 of this interstate, several hotels, fast food restaurants and truck stops were damaged and several cars overturned.

9 fatalities occurred in mobile homes, one in a vehicle and one in a commercial building converted to residential use.  The youngest victim was Wesley Crowder, 15-months.

43 homes were destroyed and 76 had major damage.  79 mobile homes were destroyed.  13 businesses sustained a varying degree of damage.    

Researchers at the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University reviewed this event and published a report on their findings.  They deduced that the damage was more consistent with F2 winds.  From the report, ” Investigation of the storm scenes revealed that the wind speeds which caused the observed damage were close to those usually associated with the F2 damage scale because of: (1) the basic design wind speed of the area, (2) the type of construction, (3) the quality of construction, and (4) the relatively high translational speed of the storm. Accounting for this criteria, the strongest damage caused by the Tuscaloosa Tornado can be explained by wind speeds corresponding to an F2 storm. Furthermore, the loss of life in this wind event is related to the type and quality of construction found in the damaged area.” 

A photo made its way to many newspapers after this event occurred.  It was taken by Michael E. Palmer of the Tuscaloosa News.  It shows Michael Harris carrying the body of an unconscious 6 year old girl from her damaged mobile home.  He rescued her from the rubble.  That little girl is now a young woman with a family of her own.  Her name, Whitney Crowder Daly.  Whitney lost her father and baby brother that horrible day in 2000.  Her brother was the youngest victim pictured above in this summary.  Whitney reached out to Meteorologist James Spann to share with folks how she is doing now and shared a picture of her new family.  Here is his post: 

Storm Data Entry

The tornado began in southwestern Tuscaloosa County on the west side of the Black Warrior River. Traveling in a northeasterly direction the tornado moved from a rural, unpopulated area of the Black Warrior River into an area of homes south of Shelton State Community College. The tornado crossed SR 69 destroying a nearly complete shopping center which included a Winn Dixie store. East of SR 69 the tornado destroyed a number of houses and residential structures.

As the tornado reached US 82 it destroyed a number of mobile homes where several deaths were reported. From US 82 the tornado continued northeasterly downing numerous trees and power lines and damaging residential structures. The tornado crossed I-20/59 just west of exit 77 where many trees were uprooted or snapped off. Minor damage occurred to the JVC manufacturing facility.

At exit 77 a number of commercial structures including hotels, fast food restaurants, and truck stops sustained damage including a number of vehicles that were overturned. The tornado continued northeasterly for a couple of miles before dissipating rapidly. Ironically, the tornado dissipated as it moved into an open, unpopulated area.

The tornado was spawned by a supercell thunderstorm that originated in Mississippi. This thunderstorm was responsible for additional tornado damage in St. Clair and Etowah counties.

Tuscaloosa EMA reported 11 fatalities with this tornado along with 144 injuries. Nine of the fatalities occurred in mobile homes, one in a vehicle, and one in a commercial building converted to residential use. Six of those killed were females and five were males. Ages ranged from 16 months to 83 years old. There were 251 single family dwellings affected (43 destroyed, 76 with major damage, 138 with minor damage), 179 mobile homes affected (79 destroyed, 23 with major damage, 77 with minor damage), and 13 businesses affected (1 destroyed, 7 with major damage, 5 with minor damage).

The tornado was on the ground for a total of 18 miles, all within Tuscaloosa County. The tornado path was estimated to be 750 yards wide at it’s maximum intensity.

This tornado was rated an F4 on the Fujita Scale for tornado intensity. Tornado intensity varied along the path with considerable F2 and F3 damage in the area from just west of SR 69 to US 82 in the Hinton Place and Hillcrest Meadows areas as well as the Bear Creek area. It was also in these areas where pockets of F4 destruction occurred.

The tornado first touched down at 12:54 PM and dissipated at 1:12 PM with a forward speed of approximately 60 MPH.

Tornado Path

SPC coordinates:  Start: 3305 / -87.70      End: 33.20 / -87.40

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

Radar & Damage Photos from the NWS Birmingham Survey

0.5 degree scan from KBMX at 1:02 pm of reflectivity over the city of Tuscaloosa
0.5 degree scan from KBMX at 1:02 pm of storm relative velocity over the city of Tuscaloosa
Damage to homes near Shelton State.
Damage to the Winn Dixie. Its was underconstruction and no one was in the building at the time of the tornado. Highway 69 is in the upper part of the image.
Damage in the Hillcrest Meadows area. F4 damage denoted by red arrows.
Damage to houses. Damage to house in the center of image is F3.
House thrown from foundation into woods. Foundation is near building with brown roof. House was thrown to the left of the foundation and landed in woods across the road.
M-Class SUV buried under debris. Garage that the M-Class was parked in is in the background.

Videos

Live ABC 33/40 coverage of the Tuscaloosa F4 tornado.  It was captured live by the towercam in Tuscaloosa.

Collection from WVUA Chief Met Jon Mason’s coverage of the tornado as it passed through Tuscaloosa on WJRD, WVUA’s former call letters.

ABC 33/40:  15 years later, survivors talk about the devastating storm that killed 11 and injured 144

Newspaper Clippings

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