By Faye Gaston
Two storm shelters are available in Union Springs, the Richard Stone Complex and the Bullock County Courthouse. Bullock County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Ray Scott has these open when severe storm alerts are announced.
There are televisions giving constant updates on the path of the tornadoes or hurricanes, or severe thunderstorms. Bathrooms and cots are available.
On Wednesday, March 17, 2021, it was repeatedly reported on television at the Stone Complex storm shelter that a tornado watch/warning for Bullock County was in effect until 11:45 p.m. About 11:00 p.m., heavy rains with thunder and lightning began and stopped around the predicted time. Folks left the Stone Complex at 12:30 a.m. There was more rain with thunder and lightning during the night. On Tuesday, March 16, 2021, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced a "state of emergency" for Alabama.
This was a "high risk" warning, the highest threat level in a forecast category. It was the first time a "high risk" forecast was issued for March since 2012. This involved significant high winds, rain, flash floods, and large hail. Violent tornadoes are some of the most dangerous weather possible. This was a "45% tornado risk," with this category announced only six times since 2006.
Seventeen tornadoes were reported across Alabama for Wednesday, March 17, and early March 18. On Thursday, Governor Ivey made the statement: "Overall, we have a lot to be grateful for, as it could have been much worse."
The risk of tornadoes moved into Georgia and Florida on Thursday. Damage was assessed in at least 12 counties in Alabama where tornadoes touched down.
Downtown structures and dozens of homes were destroyed. There were splintered homes, roofs yanked off, sheds blown away, and broken trees. There were injuries, but also some miraculously unharmed, such as a woman clinging to a little tree in a ravine as her mobile home was completely destroyed; a family in a closet as the house came down around them.
Videos of tornado funnels were shared on the computer. Photos of terrible destruction were shown. One ironic photo was of a boat wrapped around a tree.
Hail the size of baseballs were at the Mississippi-Alabama line. More than 30,000 homes and businesses in Mississippi and Alabama were still without electricity on Thursday. Bullock County was spared this destruction. Union Springs is fortunate to have storm shelters for protection when a tornado watch/warning is given.
It is especially a welcome place for those who live in mobile homes and senior citizens who live alone.