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Friday storm brings back memories of Hurricane Sally

This Harris Street home was one of dozens onto which trees and limbs fell during the storm.
Debris from an outbuilding litters a farm field off Bell Fork Road. The area was one of the hardest hit during the Friday morning storm.

News Staff Writer

Thunderstorms, many of them violent, have been a constant in and around Atmore and the surrounding area for the past week. Forecasters say residents might as well get used to it.
Rain and storms are in the forecasts for each day this week and into next week, although the chance of such weather ranges from as much as 68 percent to as little as 24 percent.
Atmore Fire Chief Ron Peebles said he can’t recall that such a lengthy period of rainfall has happened here before.
“I don’t remember anything like this; it’s very unusual,” Peebles said. “I don’t know if it’s ever happened like this before.”
The storm system that raged through Atmore last Friday morning, June 16, was probably the strongest of several strong storms to hit the community on successive days. That tempest toppled trees onto roads, streets, houses and vehicles, and left more than 3,000 Alabama Power Co. (APCO) customers in and around Atmore without power for at least part of the weekend.
APCO’s Beth Thomas said Friday that “about 3,200” Atmore residents were left in the dark when the storm — which featured hail and high winds that blew rain in an almost-sideways direction — caused transformers to blow or sent trees sprawling across power lines. An entire power pole was felled in the Robinsonville area.
Hundreds of Southern Pine Electric Cooperative customers also lost power during the Friday storm. Several homes lost electricity when the winds ripped the power connections from their outsides.
“We were running from can-to-can’t, doing what we could to get the roads and streets opened up,” Peebles said. “We spent about six hours moving somewhere between 50 and 70 trees. They were down all over the place.”
The fire chief noted that AFD personnel weren’t the only ones putting their backs into the effort.
“It was really a joint effort,” he said. “It was us, the police department and (Director of Streets & Sanitation) Calvin (Grace) and his crew. We had policemen moving trees, and Calvin brought a backhoe out and moved a lot of trees aside, off the road.”
Yvonne Burrell, who lives at the corner of Liberty and Harris streets, considered herself lucky. A giant tree in her yard broke, but it fell away from her home, onto her automobile.
“I was asleep,” Ms. Burrell said. “My neighbors heard it, and my son heard it and came over here.”
Just a few yards away, on Harris, a chunk of oak tree was in the yard and a limb was atop the corner of a home’s roof.
Peebles said that was a common site, as limbs, portions of fallen tree trunks and other debris littered streets across the city, from Lindbergh Avenue to Harris Street, Woods Road, Medical Park Drive, 3rd Avenue, Rockaway Creek Road, Crow Street, Bob White Drive, Curtis Road and beyond.
Outside the city limits, a power pole was downed and a tree fell onto a house on Pouncey Road, near Robinsonville, and major damage to trees and outbuildings was reported on Cowpen Creek Road and Canoe Road.
Peebles also had dispatchers notify MedStar crews that AFD personnel would not be able to handle or assist with medical calls until further notice.
The veteran firefighter compared Friday’s weather upheaval to Hurricane Sally, a category 2 hurricane that raged across Atmore and Escambia County in 2020 with winds that reached 110 mph.
“If I had to sum it up,” Peebles said, “I would say that (Friday) storm was almost the category of Sally, as far as the number of trees.”