March 21, 1932 – Columbiana

| March 18, 2007 @ 10:32 pm | 1 Reply

Mr. Harry Atcheson was a six year old boy in Columbiana in March 1932. His father William Franklin Atcheson ran the saw mill in Columbiana and another one in Calera. On March 21, 1932, Mr. Atcheson was working in Calera. It was late in the afternoon when someone came in to the mill with a load of logs. The man told Mr. Atcheson that Columbiana had just been wiped off the map by a big tornado. You can imagine the intense panic that Mr. Atcheson must have felt. His wife Bonnie and six children were at home in Columbiana. He raced home in his log truck.

In Columbiana, Bonnie Atcheson knew that the weather was going to be bad. Around 5 p.m., she called everyone into the house. She heard the tornado coming. Although she didn’t know what it was, she knew it was going to be bad. Harry says that he doesn’t remember the freight train sound that everyone said the tornado sounded like. He says he doesn’t remember any sound at all. His mother got them all down in the floor and got on top of them. They could see debris blowing past the side windows. Harry remembers seeing a band drum go by the window. He found it a few days later, but never knew from where it came.

When it was over, Mrs. Atcheson had a hard time keeping everyone down and little Harry rain into the kitchen. The Atcheson house was not severely damaged by the tornado that passed just south of their home which was just off the Chelsea Highway. Within seconds, Harry’s Uncle Ed came to check on them. He went with him to see the damage at his granddaddy’s house. It was badly damaged and moved off its foundation.

Meanwhile, Harry’s frantic father arrived. The tenderhearted man was crying and praying. His father put Harry in the truck and they headed toward the Courthouse in his truck, but the tree lined Main Street was blocked. They went to the Old Courthouse, which was serving as a field hospital and temporary morgue. Harry remembers that it was bedlam, with people screaming in pain and terror.

The Columbiana tornado was one of fourteen devastating tornadoes that killed over 300 people across the state that day. Fourteen people died in Columbiana.

Please read my other blog posts about the March 1932 tornado outbreak in Alabama.

Birmingham’s Weatherman, Edgar Horton

Mr. Jack Lathem

Please feel free to post your stories or information. If you are a survivor or have stories from the disaster, please email me at billmurray@att.net or call me at (205) 602-7249.

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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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