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I recently received scans of the Daily Mountain Eagle article about the November 17, 1957 tornado that struck the tiny Walker County community of Crossroads, killing a man that my grandfather was schooled under along with his family. The text that has been preserved in the scans reads thus:

TORNADO KILLS THREE AT CROSSROADS

Scene of Sunday tragedy – This pine tree is still standing in front of the foundation of Wilford Bradfords demolished home in the Cross Roads Community. The tornado swirled down lifted the house and blasted it over, under, and through the pine tree. ??? ??? In the background of the picture between the small trees and the center pine across Highway 5, 600 yards from the blocks seen in the foreground lies the remains of the house. (See picture page 6B) In the background is the demolished R. J. McCullough General Store. The Bradford home was so completely demolished it was hard to find two boards together.

This is all that remains of the Wilford Bradford home that was completely demolished in Sunday afternoon’s tornado that struck the Cross Roads community. Mr. and Mrs. Bradford and their 14-year old daughter were all killed in the tragedy.

CLEANING UP: National Guardsmen and neighbors help to clean up the mess a tornado made of the R. F. McCullough store at Cross Roads community in Walker County. A destructive tornado Sunday ripped down the building. Three persons were killed in the community.

GETAWAY FOILED: The Ed Clark family of Cross Roads Community in Walker County attempted to get out of the way of a tornado in this pickup truck Sunday, but the wind caught it. Only Mrs. Clark was injured. (Photo by William Fikes).

WALKER COUNTY DEAD: This picture, taken some time ago, is of the Wilford Bradley family of Cross Roads Community in Walker County. Bradford ???

The Significant Tornadoes entry (Grazulis 1991) for the event reads thus:

AL   NOV 17, 1957 1512 4k 15inj 400y 5m F4

WALKER — Moved NE from Cross Roads, 6m NW of Jasper, to 1m N of Manchester. A new ranch house was picked up, blown apart, and scattered. Three people were killed in that home. The fourth death occurred in another home.

You won’t find Cross Roads on most maps of Walker County today. This tiny little community consists today of only a handful of old structures, and the memories of its inhabitants. It’s a few miles NW of Jasper not far from Manchester.

The tornado was rated F4 after the introduction of the Fujita Scale more than a decade after the event based on the obliteration of what I am told was a very well-built brick house –  the nearly brand new home of the Bradfords. Other homes in the area are generally of lesser construction integrity.

There is a very interesting personal account of the tornado here: http://www.alabamawx.com/?p=24968

Map information is available here: http://www.tornadohistoryproject.com/tornado/1957/11/17

It’s been ten years to the day since the Veterans Weekend Tornado Outbreak in 2002 that spawned two powerful EF-3 tornadoes in the county. The first tornado caused extensive damage in Carbon Hill and points northeast, while the second deadlier tornado raked across Saragossa and points northeast.

It’s perhaps ironic that, on this ten-year anniversary, I now live on a plot of land that was directly impacted by the second tornado. Just inside the woods outside the window, several rotting tree trunks wrapped in tin lie on the ground amidst new growth, and the tree directly above me at the moment shows the characteristic scars of tornado damage – a bent trunk with many branches rising vertically from the bend. It will be a very long time before the traces of these powerful tornadoes begin to fade.

Though not directly related to the Walker County tornadoes theme, generally, I have begun a secondary project to gather pre-tornado street-view and low-level aerial photos of areas struck by significant tornadoes on April 27, 2011. Google Earth and Bing Maps are my main sources of imagery but any pre-tornado photographs that anyone can provide will certainly be welcomed.

I am collecting imagery from publicly available sources along the paths of most of the EF-3+ tornadoes that day, from MS, AL, and GA.

Before/after imagery will therefore likely be made available on request once I get a decent archive completed.

The available online resources for the November 10, 2002 tornado event are scant. However, there are a few sites here and there that can provide a bit of information. Among these:

http://www.angelfire.com/al4/currytornado/

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/bmx/?n=event_11102002

One of many Talkweather threads regarding the event

Bamaweather.com archives via WaybackMachine

A look at the Saragossa F3 path four years later

A look at the Saragossa F3 path four years later

Shown here is a Google Earth photo of Saragossa, AL, from 2006, almost four years after the F3 tornado that devastated the community on November 10th, 2002. The area of lighter green that runs from the bottom left of the picture to the top right – cutting through the center – shows the tornado’s track. For convenience, I’ve highlighted the tornado track and added approximate areas of road crossings in this image . The path is still very much visible today for those who know where to look, and especially to those familiar with the area. Particularly along Highway 5, Nichols RD, and Johnsey Bridge Road, tree damage is clearly evident near the points labelled on the map; numerous large tree snags still litter the landscape, several small trees are still bent over to near the ground, and countless living trees are limited to the main trunk and a few small branches densely clustered up the trunk. The path of the Carbon Hill tornado a few miles to the NW is similarly still visible, though recent extensive logging has made it difficult to pinpoint the exact area of tornado damage amidst the clearcuts.

Walker County is nestled into the Appalachian foothills just to the northwest of Birmingham, Alabama. The county has been known for mining and timber in the past, along with its wonderful people and Southern charm. But, being in the center of the so-called Dixie Alley, it’s also notable for its severe weather. The county has seen severe floods, fires, ice storms, and catastrophic drought through the years, along with temperature extremes; however, perhaps the most frightening aberration of nature that Walker County plays host to is the tornado. Dates such a April 3 1974, November 10 2002, and April 27 2011 bring back haunting memories for many residents. This page exists to help document the tornadoes that have affected the county in the past. The focus will primarily be on the disastrous tornadoes of November 10th, 2002, but any and all tornado activity in the county will also be eventually documented here. With time, I plan to fill this page with stories, survivor accounts, interview transcripts, photos, videos, weather data, and anything else I can gather with the help of local residents and meteorologists. Watch this space!

I need the help of anyone and everyone with information about Walker County AL tornadoes, so if you have anything to share, or know anyone who may be able to help, please send me an email at dreaming.of.the.vale@gmail.com and I’ll add it to the site. Thank you!