70-year-old retiree Russel Horne woke up Friday morning without a home, a car or any of his possessions after a vicious tornado ripped through Hale County Thursday.

As the large and dangerous system bore down on their mobile home outside Sawyerville, Horne grabbed his 14-year-old grandson and their three dogs and took cover in an underground storm shelter they installed following the unprecedented destruction caused by the tornado outbreak of April  2011.

The move likely saved their lives, as the storm shelter is the only thing on the property that still stands in one piece.

“It was rough, and when it came over, you could feel the pressure change,” Horne said. “My ears popped, and It sounded like a high rushing wind. It just destroyed everything in a matter of minutes.”

What used to be a mobile home is now a heap of metal and wood, broken glass and personal possessions. Dozens of toppled trees littered the roads surrounding the property, rendering the location impossible to reach by car.

“It took out everything here," Horne said. "It was a house-trailer with a front and back porch, two car sheds, my boat, and my car."

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After the tornado had passed, Horne’s daughter Mary rushed to the scene with her boyfriend, Jessie Edwards, to make sure her son and dad were okay.

All four were on the scene Friday morning, trying to salvage belongings from the debris.

“It scared [my 14-year-old son], he said it was loud,” Mary said. “My dad installed the shelter years ago, and I’m just glad they got in it in time.”

Horne and his grandson were in the shelter for 25 minutes before the tornado hit. Neither knew what would be waiting for them on the other side of the storm shelter door.

Although it's hard to see in the photo, Horne's stone storm shelter is buried under fallen tree branches.
Although it's hard to see in the photo, Horne's stone storm shelter is buried under fallen tree branches.

“I didn’t know what I was going to show up to," Mary said. "When I pulled up and saw what happened, it was hard to decipher where the trailer even was. It was a shock, and I just took off running to look for them."

Luckily, everyone is okay after the storm and are already receiving aid from their community.

The Faunsdale Mennonite Church was the first group to arrive on the property Friday, shortly followed by Alabama Power engineers. The church group routinely volunteers time and resources to help clean up after disasters strike their close-knit community.

“We do donation cleanup work,” said Dave Winger, the man in charge of the church group.

Winger hopes to provide financial and physical aid to those affected by the 19 tornados that touched down across the state.

“Feel free to give me a call if you’re looking for help cleaning your place up," he offered.

To contact Dave Winger and the Faunsdale Mennonite Church, call (334) 654-0000.

Hale County Tornado Damage

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