May 27, 1973 was a Sunday. My family lived in the Roebuck section of northeastern Birmingham. I was eleven years old at the time. I loved sleeping with the window open, and awoke to a warm and humid morning, muck like today. But something was noticeably different. It was very windy with a southwest breeze blowing at some 10-20 mph. My first thought was, â€œTornado weather.â€ The mere thought gave me a feeling of intense dread and apprehension.
You see, I spent the first twelve years of my life petrified of the weather. Literally frightened out of my mind by storms. So, I diligently listened to WVOK throughout the day, hoping to hear any weather information. By late morning, tornado watches were issued. Storms began firing across Northwest Alabama before noon. The severe storms were reported bear Tuscaloosa. Tornado warnings were issued for Jefferson County when these storms produced a tornado at Rock Mountain Lake, near Bessemer. This was getting too close for comfort. I tracked the storms across the Birmingham metro area and breathed a sigh of relief when no more damage was reported.
Then action began to our north. A tornado was reported near Hulaco in Cullman County. This did not concern me, as it was north of Birmingham and moving away from us. WVOK was my constant friend, feeding me the time weather information I sorely craved. Another wave of thunderstorms moved through at mid-afternoon. These storms were heavy, but once again, we had dodged a bullet in the Birmingham area.
Soon after those storms passed, we went out to play baseball, thinking that the heavy stuff was over. I did not see a well written severe weather statement from the National Weather Service in Birmingham. It warned that the weather was not yet over.
We had been playing baseball for over an hour, and were oblivious to the changing sky. After 6:30, my mother appeared at the back door and called us inside. She spoke in a tone that let us know she meant business, so although we were disappointed that our backyard baseball game had been broken up prematurely, we headed inside. When I got to the screen door, she told me to look to the north, knowing I would instantly recognize what she was seeing.
A tornado! And a big one! You could only see the top of the funnel above the trees just one mile away. It had just crossed Highway 79 and was demolishing the mobile home park there. My mouth fell open in amazement. We were in textbook position to see it. Instinctively, she ushered us in just as the circulation of the storm hit with a fury. We ran to the middle hallway and closed off all the doors and wind and heavy rain battered our house. The power flickered and then went out.
After it passed, we listened to a battery powered AM radio and learned of the devastation in the Tarrant and Center Point areas. The next day, we drove out to see the destruction in Center Point where Mr. Thomas Simpson died. It was very sobering.