The Harpersville Tornado…January 24, 1964

| January 24, 2009 @ 9:42 am | 8 Replies

There was no warning. Little lightning and thunder. People in Shelby County, Alabama paid little attention to the thunderstorm that rolled in around 7 p.m. Suddenly, a funnel dipped from the thundercloud just to the southwest of Harpersville. It roared northeast, heavily damaging the southeastern part of the community about 30 miles southeast of Birmingham on highway 280.

It was only on the ground for three miles, and its path width was never more than with width of a football field. But it directly struck three homes on US-280. One was blown 100 yards into another home, where it was smashed to pieces.

The Tornado Project rates the damage produced by the twister as F3. A total of ten people in the three homes were killed. Six people were injured.

The Shelby County Reporter would note that the storms were being monitored by the Weather Bureau radar from Birmingham, but they didn’t look strong. They were probably the low topped supercell variety that we see so often in the winter.

Just a reminder that when it comes to thunderstorms, expect the unexpected.

– Bill Murray
Follow my weather history tweets on Twitter. I am wxhistorian.


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Bill Murray is the President of The Weather Factory. He is the site's official weather historian and a weekend forecaster. He also anchors the site's severe weather coverage. Bill Murray is the proud holder of National Weather Association Digital Seal #0001 @wxhistorian

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  1. LJ says:

    My family knew a man that lost his wife and children in that tornado. After he remarried, he built another house. A few years later, good friend of mine bought that house and in the basement was a “safe room” that looked to withstand a nuclear bomb! That’s where we’d go during a tornado warnings when I’d visit!!

  2. Brad says:

    LJ, that man was my uncle (he married my dad’s sister). I never really heard too much of that story, but I know that he was not home when the storm hit. Lost his wife and two boys. As long as I can remember, we always went to their house when it got bad in Sylacauga. I remember spending many a long night in that “bunker”. Interesting connection.

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