Nature’s fury

Huxford area damaged by storm

From left, Jim and Kenny Coker examine the damage on their farm.

News Staff Writer

Some residents of the Huxford area lost roofs or small outbuildings — and virtually all of them lost electricity for several hours — last Thursday, January 12, when apparent straight-line winds raged out of the northwest and roared across the rural community.
Metal roofs were torn from a Huxford Baptist Church fellowship area and a nearby farm equipment barn; a car shed was destroyed, and at least one huge tree was blown down across a home’s driveway and fence. But nobody was hurt.
Although there were no reported injuries, one of the victims said he wasn’t so sure that was going to be the case as the windstorm progressed.
“There was a line of clouds, and it looked like they might be going to skirt us,” said Joe Coker, who lost the roof from his equipment barn to the powerful gale. “All of a sudden, the wind started blowing and it got real dark. I thought we were going to lose our lives.”
Instead, all Coker lost was the metal barn roof, some pieces of which were blown more than 100 yards away, into a field. The wind blasts, estimated to have exceeded 60 mph, also blew a cotton buggy off the jack on which it was resting and pushed a water wagon about 45 feet across the farm property.
Coker said he had a lot to be thankful for.
“At least it didn’t tear up my cotton picker,” he said. “None of my equipment was damaged, and it didn’t damage the house (which is less than 50 feet from the barn).”
Kenny Coker, who lives in Walnut Hill but helps his father farm the Huxford acreage, said he opened the door to his father’s home with plans to video the belligerent weather. That’s when his concerns mirrored those of his dad.
“It almost sucked me out of the house when I tried to open the door,” he said. “Then the winds started blowing sideways, and I couldn’t open the door all the way. It was looking pretty bad there for a while.”
At least one Alabama Power Company (APCO) light pole along Alabama 21 was toppled, and at least one other was blown at a severe angle but remained upright. The community was without electric power until about 6:45 p.m.
Mike Jay lives about a mile south of the area in which the most damage was inflicted. Jay, who was diverting northbound traffic onto Booker Road as APCO crews worked, said he was also caught a little off-guard by the gale-force wind currents.
“The wind almost blew me down,” he said, noting also that a giant tree had blown down across his driveway and the fence of his horse arena. “I think it was straight-line winds, a microburst [a downward draft that can contain winds of up to 100 mph] or something like that, but not a tornado.”
The storm system, which spawned 68 tornadoes across mid and lower Alabama, also took its fury out on Huxford Baptist Church, less than a half mile from the Coker farm.
The metal roof over the church’s open-air fellowship area, where fish fries and other events are held, was torn away and scattered across the churchyard and a field across from the house of worship. Artificial flowers and other items were swept from the church cemetery and likewise scattered across the landscape.
A wooden outbuilding where Tommy Wilkins parks his truck was demolished, and several nearby pecan trees were uprooted. The winds rushed past Huxford Timber and Pole without doing any damage to the business.
Huxford Elementary School Principal Leah Fuqua posted on the HES Facebook page that students and teachers rode out the storm safely in the school’s hallway. No damage to school property was reported.
On an odd note, the winds ripped the lid off an Igloo cooler at the Coker farm, dropping it immediately but flinging the remainder of the cooler more than 50 yards.
“It could have been worse, a lot worse,” said Joe Coker, shaking his head as he picked up several martin gourds that had been blown across the farmyard.