Severe storms pummel county, drench Atmore
By By Janet Little Cooper
A severe storm system that left a path of destruction from Louisiana to Mississippi pounded Atmore and surrounding areas for most of the day Wednesday causing flooded roadways and downed trees.
According to the Web site Accuweather.com, Atmore received 6.1 inches of rain within a two-hour time frame.
The sudden deluge of water caused numerous roadways in town to disappear underneath the rainwater, slowing traffic to a snail's pace in and around town.
The Alabama Department of Transportation was called in to man several locations that poised a problem for motorist.
At about 9:30 a.m. in the middle of the torrential downpour, a house in Perdido was hit by what the residents thought was a tornado. It was later determined by the National Weather Center that the damage was the result of straight-line winds.
Patrick Bankester, Sr. was at home with his son, Patrick, Jr., when the storm passed over his home leaving behind a trail of destruction.
"I heard the roof began to tear off," Bankester, Sr said. "We knew everything was tearing up. We heard everything being torn up. I went into the bathroom and Patrick went in the hall. That is where we stayed until it all passed over. Then we looked out and saw it all tore up."
Bankester, who had stayed at home during Hurricane Ivan, said that his home received more damage from Wednesday's storm than it did from Ivan two years ago.
"We had just finished repairing or rebuilding everything from Ivan," Bankester said. "We completely rebuilt all of our sheds and stalls for the horses, put on a new metal roof on the back, and built a metal screened in poarch enclosure. And now it is all gone again. It kind of depresses you. Now I have all this work to do again. The ceiling in the house is wet, the insulation is wet, the back poarch is gone, my sheds are gone and our trucks are damaged. We are extremely lucky that we are still alive, it could have been worse."
Bankester's son, Patrick, Jr., was hoping to celebrate his 16th birthday Wednesday, but had to deal with the damage from the storm instead.
"I was out back smoking a cigarette about five minutes before it hit," Bankester, Jr., said. "I went inside and started reading a book and then I heard the wind start up and it just started getting faster and faster so I ran to the hallway and that is when I heard it hit the house. I heard trees falling and the roof peeling off. It was my 18th birthday and I got a tornado for a present. I was here for Ivan and we had hardly any damage. This was worse than that."
The Bankester family also reported two horses being picked up by the strong winds and being set down in another pasture.
Just down the road in Nokomis another family the Westmecotts had a similar story to tell.
Their trailer located at 1020 Johnson Street was destroyed during Wednesday's severe weather as well.
"All the sudden, I had just got up and heard a big roaring sound then the trailer started shaking real bad and picking up and moving," Lisa Westmecott said. "I had to hold onto the furniture to be able to get to the hallway and lay down. The windows started breaking and then the walls in the house started cracking and it blew the front door open, which I think is the only thing that stopped it from blowing the trailer apart. My phone was still working so I got on the phone to my husband's job, Alto and stayed on the phone with her until it cut off. Then I got through to 911 and they stayed on the phone with me until someone got here. Alto sent my husband home and other people came to help as well. It cracked all the walls, and I could hear everything tearing up."
Westmecott, who was at home alone at the time of the storm, remembers Hurricane Ivan well and said that it doesn't compare to the few moments she spent inside her trailer Wednesday morning.
"This was worse than Ivan," Westmecott said. "It was 10 times worse than Ivan. There was no warning. It was scary to be here. I was here all by myself. It is just a wonder that it didn't blow the trailer apart. Everything in my house is ruined. It picked up my desk and computer and moved it all the way across the room. It blew up one of my TVs and all the floors are cracked. All of my furniture is ruined. It is hard to have to go through this by yourself."
A trailer adjacent to Westmecott's home was blown off of its foundation as well.
Initial reports indicate that the Nokomis damage was due to a tornado.