A Memory of the 1956 McDonald’s Chapel Tornado

| April 15, 2007 @ 12:06 pm | 8 Replies

An F4 tornado killed 25 people along the western and northern fringes of Birmingham on this date in 1956…here is a memory from Elizabth Sheetz, who was 9 when the tornado hit…

Please send me your memories if you have them…to bill.murray@theweathercompany.com

Mr. Murray;

I was nine years old when that tornado occurred. The word tornado was not even a part of my vocabulary. I remember the day vividly. My parents, my sister and I and my two brothers were visiting by grandparents who lived on Iceland Ave. in McDonalds Chapel. A short time before three o’clock, I went outside to see what my Mother and brother were doing. They were discussing how terrible the sky looked, the eerie color and the dark, muggy stillness. My Dad, Grandfather and Uncle were in the front yard painting the house.

All of a sudden my Dad yelled “Here it comes!” The men ran into the house and my Uncle hollered that we all run to the storm shelter up the street. My Dad said we would never make it. That it was too late. At that point, it took three grown men pushing with all their might to close the back door of my Grandfather’s house.

Then, all nine of us(five adults and four children) lay face down on the floor hallway.

In the distance, I could hear a roar. This roar is just as you hear a roar of wind through the trees that eventually dies down. This roar did not die down. It just got louder and louder.

Suddenly, a blast of “emptiness” occurs. No roar; only the sound of the house creaking, and the clanging and pinging of debris being blown around. My brother and I lifted our heads to peer out a window. We saw horizontal rain and grayness.

It was over in seconds. A hard rain followed. The tornado was apparently skipping when it went by. The roof on the house across from my grandfather’s was blown off.

My grandfather’s yard was a mass of wooden splinters. My Dad’s car parked in the back was covered in millions of nicks. The old number three wash tub that once hung on the back of the house was gone. We were the lucky ones.

My Dad, Grandfather and Uncle searched for victims and cleared roads so that rescue vehicles could reach the more devastated areas. I will always remember the sirens of the ambulances and fire trucks.

The National Guard came. For awhile we all sat in the darkness of no power. Somehow, later that night, Dad got us all back to our home in Wylam. Mom and Dad turned on the radio and the list of the dead was being broadcast.

Several days later, we tried to visit our Grandfather. The road was packed with cars, bumper to bumper sight-seers.

You are right. Very little is ever mentioned about this tornado. I will never forget it.

Elizabeth Sheetz

Category: Uncategorized

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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