HARVEST, Ala.(WHNT)-April 27th, 2011. It's a day that will never be forgotten in the state of Alabama after a record-breaking number of tornadoes leveled homes and killed 247 people.
That fateful tally includes nine people who died in and around the Harvest area in Madison County, which was hit especially hard. Harvest Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tim Westwick recalled the drive he took up Highway 53 with WHNT News 19 reporter Nick Banaszak just moments after a killer EF-4 twister struck.
"Just could not believe the damage, how hard it hit Anderson Hills" recalled Westwick. "Cars everywhere, you could see the houses destroyed on the hill...It was a sad day for Harvest because we had so many houses ruined, hundreds of houses ruined. Lives were changed, lives were affected."
Three years later the once-devastated stretch is now all put back together. Community leaders in Harvest are now putting the final funds together for a super-sized public tornado shelter that will hold well over 400 people. The yet-to-be built shelter will sit on land donated by Crosswinds Church on Wall Triana Highway.
"It will be an easy place to find if people are in a hurry," said Westwick. "It will have bathrooms, we'll have monitors for televisions so people can watch the news. They'll be in a safe area."
A cookout fundraiser for the public shelter will be held at Crosswinds Church on Sunday April 27th from 4-6 p.m. Officials say everyone is welcome to the event.