Headlines on Sunday, April 15, 1956 talked about Democratic Presidential hopefuls Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver and their attacks on President Eisenhower’s foreign policy. Eisenhower still had a firm lead in recent polls that showed him a clear winner if he was to run against Kefauver. The U.N. Secretary General was in Lebanon working on the Israeli/Egyptian crisis.
Locally, Jabo Waggoner was running for Associate City Commissioner of Public Improvement. Major league clubs were closing down their spring training camps and heading for Tuesday opening games. The Yankees and Dodgers were favored to win their respective pennants, again as in 1955.
The Birmingham News put the official U.S. Weather Bureau forecast on the top of the front page back then. The paper called for Considerable cloudiness, windy and warm Sunday and Sunday night with scattered showers and thunderstorms. Winds 15 to 30 mph. Sounded like tornado weather. It was.
Around 3 p.m., an F4 tornado tore across the western and northern fringes of Birmingham. It touched down just west of Wylam. The tornado plowed through McDonald’s Chapel and the Stacey Hollow area. One hundred homes were destroyed in these two communities. The murderous tornado continued through Sandusky, destroying twenty blocks of homes.
It then hit the Sayreton area just north of North Birmingham and destroyed a filling station and barbecue restaurant along US-31 in Fultondale. Homes were destroyed in the New Georgia community between Sayreton and Lewisburg. The tornado passed just north of Tarrant City, near Ketona, finally lifting near Chalkville.
Other neighborhoods that were hard hit were Capps Town and Oak Ridge. A Capps Town resident said that the tornado looked like “a big ball of fire rolling in big black smoke. It just roared, roared, roared,” she said. The only warning anyone had was the sound of the tornado.
The twister killed 25 along its 20 mile path. Most of the deaths occurred in the Stacey Hollow and McDonalds Chapel communities, save for two young sisters in the Sandusky area. Over two hundred people were injured and eleven hundred left homeless. A total of 400 homes and buildings were destroyed.