Today In Weather History (2/23/1975): The Scottish Inn Tornado

| February 23, 2017 @ 10:30 pm

The tornado that struck Tuscaloosa on February 23, 1975 just before 3 p.m. CST was not only the strongest tornado that struck the State of Alabama that year, it was the deadliest.

Weather maps that Sunday morning showed a low pressure system over North Central Mississippi. The low was not very strong. At 6 a.m. that morning, the pressure in the low was only 1004 mb.

A warm, moist airmass was in place across Alabama, with temperatures across the central part of the state in the middle 60s. Dewpoints were only a degree or too lower than the air temperatures, indicating the high relative humidity. The proximity of the low, the juicy air mass and a backed, southeasterly surface wind were telltale factors that there would problems during the day.

Just across the border in Georgia, dewpoints were much lower. At Atlanta, the dewpoint was only 52F.

Less that a year after the Superoutbreak of tornadoes that killed 77 people in Alabama on April 3, 1974, the state was understandably on edge. I was nervously following the tornado from Roebuck as a 13 year old, listening to weather bulletins on WVOK radio in Birmingham.

Tornadoes touched down in northeastern Walker County just after 12:30 p.m. Nearly an hour later, an F2 tornado moved through Jones Chapel in Cullman County, destroying four trailers and damaging 23 homes.

The tornado first touched down in the Taylorville community and then skipped northeastward before hitting the Skyland Park area and moving on to the McFarland Blvd. exit area of I-59/20. It went on to affect parts of the Alberta City-Leland Park area and then touched down in Holt.

The official path length was 14.4 miles. Along it, 289 homes were destroyed or heavily damaged, along with 20 businesses and 21 mobile homes.

The tornado nearly destroyed the new Scottish Inn motel on I-59 at McFarland. The fatality was a 23 year old housekeeper named Thelma Hill, killed when most of the second floor of the motel was sheared away by the tornado causing a wall to fall on her.

Four tornadoes touched down across the state that Sunday, affecting parts of Walker, Cullman and Calhoun Counties.

Category: Met 101/Weather History

About the Author ()

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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