The DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) on Wednesday morning responded to various reports of damage across DeKalb County from what was later confirmed by the National Weather Service as an EF-1 tornado.
EMA Director Anthony Clifton was on scene in the Sara’s Acres community on 68th Street Northwest in Fort Payne, surveying and assessing the extent of a possible EF-1 tornado that swept across the county Wednesday morning.
Reports of damage came from Fyffe, Sylvania, Fort Payne and Mentone. Clifton said he started assessing the situation on the north end of the county while EMA Deputy Director Michael Posey started on the south end.
“I thought it was straight-line wind damage but from the looks of things, the [damage] gives you an indication of rotation,” he said.
Clifton said the difference between straight-line winds and tornados is the direction of the debris it leaves behind. With straight-line winds, all wind flows from a downburst and debris is often laying parallel to the outward wind flow, while with a tornado, all wind flows into a tornado, debris is often laying at angles due to the curving of the inflow winds.
“There’s a line of stress seen here, and it puts every one of the big Cedar Trees down,” he said. “It didn’t show up as a big signature on the radar enough to set off the warnings and nobody called anything in until later. From the looks of things, it was just skipping and hopping.”
Posey also reported several structural damages on County Road 121 in Fort Payne off County Road 85.
“I don’t know how much other damage was done across other counties, this may be it but this storm came all the way across the state,” he said. “If I was going to call it, it would be an EF 0, with winds of 80 miles per hour or an EF-1.”
When extensive damage is noted, the National Weather Service may dispatch a damage survey team to determine the cause and nature of wind damage and look for evidence of circulation in debris to determine if the damage is straight-line winds or a tornado.
Thursday evening the National Weather Service confirmed an EF-1 tornado touched down around 5:45 a.m. near Sylvania in DeKalb County Wednesday morning. The storm had no warning, as these spin-ups can be hard to detect.
According to the NWS, EF-1 tornadoes have wind speeds of 86 to 110 miles per hour. Damages include broken glass in doors and windows, significant loss of roof coverings, mobile homes pushed off foundations or overturned amongst other damages.
The tornado measured peak winds of 86mph, a path length of 3.17 miles and a maximum path width of 50 yards that impacted the Lakewood community of DeKalb County.
DeKalb County residents reported the possible tornado touched down in various areas starting around 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, uprooting trees causing damages to fences, vehicles and homes. There were reportedly no injuries.