Titus tornado survivors thankful to be alive

Cliff Williams / The Outlook Family and friends check on Acruglia Pearson Friday morning who rode out the Thursday evening tornado in her Thornton Road home.

A phone call may have saved Clyde and Kathy Stroud from the worst in Thursday night’s tornado in Titus.

“Our daughter called us and said there was a tornado,” Kathy said. “I looked out the window and said, ‘It’s here.’”

That warning gave them a head start.

“We ran to the bathroom,” Kathy said. “We heard glass breaking and ‘pop, pop, pop’ where trees were breaking but we are safe. We are blessed.”

The Strouds have damage to their roof, windows and skirting of their mobile home, but nothing significant.

“The trailer did not budge; it didn’t wiggle, it didn’t do anything,” Kathy said. “It has a FHA foundation and is tied down well. I called the builder and told her she did a great job on my trailer.”

The National Weather Service surveyed the damage Friday and Saturday. It said an EF2 tornado started near Shoal Creek Drive on the western shore of Lake Jordan. The tornado was estimated to have reached 120 mph and traveled 8.5 miles. The NWS said the initial damage was weak but the storm intensified, causing minor roof damage to homes while snapping and uprooting numerous trees. The tornado then crossed Lake Jordan and caused extensive damage on Red Bone Drive, Speigner Road, Shady Lane Road, Jones Corner Road, Montana Drive and Dakota Drive. Hundreds of trees were downed, power poles were downed and homes suffered damage, but the strongest damage was yet to come. The NWS said the storm moved northeastward and crossed Thornton Road. There, several homes lost entire roofs and a few walls. The tornado continued its path from there before lifting.

In total, the NWS reports at least 35 power poles were downed, at least 50 structures were damaged, two convenience stores were damaged, and a few homes had both the roofs removed and walls collapsed. One car was moved over 30 yards.

Despite the damage to their home, the Strouds were helping volunteers clean up the yard at the home of their son Jeremy Nobles and his wife Beth on U.S. Highway 231 near Kim’s Korner Store. The Nobles said they were not at home Thursday night as they were in Holtville watching their son throw a school-record-tying 15 strikeouts.

“We were coming home and saw it cross the road,” Jeremy said. “We turned around and went back to Wetumpka.”

Jeremy said he had no major damage to his house but the tornado damaged two sheds, his roof and a trampoline and took care of one thing he has been wanting to deal with.

“All these trees, I’ve been wanting to get rid of these pines and the good Lord did it,” Jeremy said. “They were close but luckily no trees hit my house. One of them was leaning towards the house. I was scared of it. Luckily it didn’t get us.”

About a mile from the Strouds and Nobles, Acruglia Pearson, 87, was not so lucky.

“I stayed up ‘til 9 p.m.,” Pearson said. “I was watching the news shows. I went to sleep, then I heard a noise. It was crazy. I got up. I went to the front, I couldn’t get out. I went to the back, I couldn’t get out. The house fell down around me. It is unbelievable.”

Pearson thanks God she made it out unharmed despite her house being destroyed.

“God is in charge of our lives,” Pearson said. “He is so good to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Pearson was not alone at her home as numerous family and friends stopped by to check on her.

“I just had to come by and check on her,” Norm Wilson said. “She raised me, so to speak. She is like a mother to me.”

Wilson said he moved next door to Pearson in 1963 after he got married. He has since moved away but came by after hearing about her situation and had to joke around some with her.

“I wouldn’t have laid there,” Wilson said to Pearson. “I would have gotten outta there.”

Marvin Wagoner, a native of Pennsylvania, has never seen anything like tornadoes but has gotten a quick education on them in the last few months.

“This is No. 3,” Wagoner said. “What is going on? Tornadoes can obviously be very damaging.”

While Wagoner had no damage to his home, he heard the tornado.

“It was loud,” he said. “It sounded like a freight train.”

Wagoner may have more tornadoes in his future if tornado alley has shifted from the Midwest.

“I married an Alabamian and moved back here,” Wagoner said. “We got married down there where the Wetumpka one hit. It destroyed the trees around where we got married. I guess I will learn to endure.”

Elmore County EMA director Keith Barnett said damage throughout the county was being assessed Friday morning. He also said people from the National Weather Service were also in the area to survey storm damage and assess the severity of the storm.

“The storm started on the Holtville and Slapout side of Lake Jordan, then crossed the lake to the Titus side,” Barnett said. “We’ve had lots of reports of trees down and reports of 12 structures with damage.”

As he continued to make his way around the county and inspect the affected areas, Barnett said he was sure the total amount of damage would continue to grow but said the county was fortunate to have avoided major injuries or fatalities.

Alabama Power officials said approximately 250 customers in Elmore County were without power at 6 a.m. Friday.

Wilson is thankful God was looking out for everyone.

“If luck had anything to do with it, I don’t want no part of it,” he said.

Pearson, having lost her home, was thankful for her family and friends checking in on her.

“I love y’all,” she said. “I’m going to continue to pray for you all. All y’all are my family.”

Staff writer Donald Campbell contributed to this story.