JB’s JOURNAL / The Famous Brent Tornado / 5/26/13

| May 27, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

The Famous Brent Tornado–40 Years Ago

There will always be tornadoes in Alabama as well as in all states of the good old USA. All we can do is stay alert and be ready to go to a safe place when one happens. Enough of that…

During my 32 years in the U.S. Weather Bureau, later called the National Weather Service, all at the Birmingham office, I have spent many hours and miles surveying tornado tracks and assembling final reports for the national publication known as Storm Data.

After the April 1974 outbreak that almost destroyed the city of Guin, I walked over the entire town interviewing residents that had lost everything. After talking to hundreds of people I was extremely impressed that not a single person questioned God or hated God for what had happened. They were instead very happy to be alive.

Very much of a similar story happened at Brent in Bibb County on that struck on Sunday evening May 27, 1973. It was rated an F4. Yesterday was the 40th anniversary. Bill Murray and I motored deep into Central Alabama to the town of Brent to attend an evening memorial service last evening.

Included on the program was Dr. John Meigs, a local physician who moderated and had been 18 at the time of the tornado; Dale Black, the lifesaving radar operator; Bill Murray, weather historian; John Brasher, who thoroughly documented the event and was at the radar site when it was destroyed; and myself. After a very pleasant meal in the dining area of the church, we migrated to the new sanctuary, which was a beautiful one, for the memorial service. A lot of people did some speaking. Two of the main ones included Dale Black and John Brasher. Dale was the man in charge of the big WSR-57 radar mounted on a ridge southwest of Centreville. He was an employee of the National Weather Service just like the rest of us. In the same radar room was John Brasher, who has written dozens of stories about the event and he is considered the historian of the tornado.

The tornado was first reported near Demopolis. Later it did major damage across Southeast Greensboro and then it took off to the northeast and eventually moved right into the city of Brent. A few minutes before that, however, it destroyed the radar tower and part of the building where the NWS people were watching the radar.

I have been to many meetings like last night in many parts of the state after a tornado tragedy. We have never been better received than we were last night. After the meeting, many folks in the congregation came by to thank us and to welcome us. Believe it or not one of those persons was a long lost cousin of mine. She was born in the Valley community almost in the same place I was. I still have lots of kin folks in North Perry County, in Hale County at Greensboro, Akron, Moundville and good old Havana Junction. Brent mayor Dennis Stripling promised me if I ever retired and wanted to move back to Havana Junction, he would make an effort to go down there and make sure I got elected. We were all joking of course. It’s no sin whatsoever to have fun at such a meeting.

Final note…I am still very upset at what happened in Moore, Oklahoma over the weekend. Saturday morning some people descended on the town and solicited clean-up work from people that had no chance of doing it themselves. However, they wanted payment in advance. You guessed correctly, they vanished and did not come back. I wanted to drive out there and punch them out. Just a thought–I never would do that. Life goes on.

P.S. I will have a number of journal reports in coming weeks. Brent Mayor Dennis Stripling reminded me yesterday that I should hurry up and write my weather book, “Scattered Brains and Scattered Showers” before i

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