On This Date in 1967…

| March 6, 2011 @ 9:30 am | 4 Replies

The headlines in early March 1967 were dominated by war news from Vietnam. President Johnson announced that he was going to order a lottery type draft.

Another hot story was the investigation by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison into Clay Shaw’s possible involvement in a JFK assassination conspiracy.

In The Birmingham News, famed sports columnist Alf Van Hoose was busy previewing the upcoming Major League Baseball season. Roger Maris had become a Cardinal.

In college basketball, UCLA’s Lew Alcindor was named the player of the year. Locally, the final route of I-459 had been decided.

On the morning of Thursday, March 6, 1967, forecaster Jerry Couard greeted Chief Meteorologist Charles Bradley as they came on duty at the Birmingham Weather Bureau office at the airport. They commented that it was going to be an interesting day. Forecasters had known since Sunday that it was going to potentially be a day for bad weather.

Our very own J.B. Elliott was on duty that morning. As he pondered the forecast deadline he had at 10:30 a.m., he saw a classic severe weather pattern. “When a new low pressure area started forming at the surface, we were reasonably certain that it would be an ideal situation for a significant tornado to form about 100 miles ahead of a cold front and sweep eastward across the state,” Elliott said the next day in a Birmingham News article.

J.B. had a forecast due at 10:30 a.m. He lobbied for more time as data was pouring into the office. Not only was severe weather possible, there were indications that snow would fall on the heels of the outbreak. At 11:05, he sent the issuance. It was a good one, alerting about the possibility for tornadoes and giving a heads up for the pending snowfall.

The first warning was for Pickens, Lamar and Fayette counties based on a tornado report near Philadelphia, MS. About 3:30 p.m., a tornado was reported near Sumiton, where witnesses described it as a “puff of smoke.” This would be the most significant tornado of the day. The F4 tornado cut a thirty mile path across Walker and Jefferson Counties. A chilling report came when a caller phoned the Weather Bureau to say he had just emerged from his storm shelter in Dora and was watching the tornado move off to the northeast.

The tornado passed near Rocky Hollow, where it killed a sixteen year old young man named Dennis Wright, who was credited with saving a young girl by urging her to safety. The tornado caused heavy damage at Dilworth and killed a 27 year old woman. The tornado lifted after passing near Warrior.

A total of fifty homes were damaged or destroyed across Walker and northern Jefferson Counties. A total of two people died.

At least six other tornadoes were reported across the state, including an F2 tornado that struck the downtown area of Uniontown in Perry County.

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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