BEAUREGARD, AL-- The rescue and recovery efforts are just getting underway in Lee County in east Alabama after a deadly tornado. Disaster officials have said the EF-4 tornado killed at least 23 people. The storm was estimated to be a half mile wide and tore a path of destruction a mile long.
APR’s Pat Duggins sat down with one woman from the community of Beauregard who made it out alive.
“Oh boy, the wind was so high and I heard like a little roar and heard those trees popping," said Peggy Hutcheson of Beauregard.
We met her at the Red Cross Shelter at Providence Baptist Church in Opeleika. Hutcheson came in for a cup of coffee and a chance to catch her breath. She lost her home in Beauregard during Sunday’s tornado. It was the sound of the trees she remembers most.
“I don’t know, little a pin, pop, pop, pop, like firecrackers," she recalled, "and that wind was so strong. I thought that was it.”
It wasn't just the sounds Hutcheson remembers. The storm was followed by the smell of pine and earth that was torn up by the winds. Hutcheson said Sunday was also proof that no one’s luck lasts forever.
“Three years ago one came through and missed us. This time we're 3, 4 foot from it,” she said.
The sounds and smells of a tornado like the one that hit Beauregard and Lee County are nothing new to residents of Tuscaloosa like Steve Miller. He was the first person Alabama Public Radio spoke with following the tornado that tore through town on April 27, 2011.
“The sound was the loudest thing I ever heard. It was so loud, I couldn’t heard it anymore,” Miller said.
And then there was human toll. Back in 2011, the storm killed over 50 people. A man who lived near Miller found one of the victims.
“My neighbor who lived two houses went into his backyard and found a young lady wrapped around one of his trees,” Miller recalled. “She had passed away.”