A summer storm almost ended in disaster for a Toney family

Summer storms are some of the worst weather you will see in a calendar year!‘ We repeat that often this time of year because it reminds us how intense these explosive, slow-moving, heavy storms can get.

Bruce Imsand of Toney told us the story of his close call with one of the storms that blew up on Sunday afternoon at his boat house on Smith Lake near the Cullman/Winston County line:

“We were coming back in from some tubing fun when a storm came up in hurry.  The kids just made it to the house before the rain started.  Four of us were on the dock when the most incredible wind and horizontal rain hit – the most fierce I’ve experienced.  I’m no expert, but guessing sustained winds must have been approaching 100 mph for 15 seconds or more.  In  seconds, the dock had flipped and I, two sons-in-law and one daughter-in-law were trapped in the water under a twisted pile of metal.  I emerged first without injuries then my daughter-in-law and then one of my sons-in-law.   The last one to appear took over a minute to emerge from deep under the wreckage.  That was a helpless feeling.  All injuries were bumps and bruises with come some cuts and one crushed foot that was caught and then released by the dock.  This  was the real deal.  If the kids were still on the dock we would have lost some.

As we emerged the hail started (about marble size to pea size) and the soaking down pour continued

Door was also blown open on the house from the wind where a 9 month old grandson was napping on a blanket on the floor when the full force winds and rain and debris came in.  My wife fell on her grandson to cover him while  my 86 yo father attempted to close the doors.

My oldest son was covered by a fallen tree next to the dock ramp.  He was able  to crawl out without injury.

My next door neighbor lost his dock and boat as well, but were in the house at the time.

The timing was such that everyone survived with a story to tell.  I thank God that my family of 5 adult children and their spouses and 6 grandchildren are still in one piece.

Things like this happen, you just never expect them to happen to you.”

Here are some of Bruce’s photos from the aftermath:

Here’s the radar loop from that time frame: no Severe Thunderstorm Warnings in effect.

Summer storms are more simple than the severe storms of the other seasons: updrafts and downdrafts.  That’s also why it’s hard to get a warning before the storm becomes severe; cold, moist air falls out of a storm in the vertical, not the horizontal in a way that radar could easily see it.

Hot, humid air rises (quickly) creating the storm, but eventually that air cools, condenses out water vapor, and gets too heavy for the updraft to hold.  That’s when it crashes to the ground in what we call a ‘downburst’ (see one happen over Huntsville last summer here on WHNT.com).  Those downbursts can fall to the ground at up to 100 miles per hour, and when they hit the ground all of that energy spreads out on the ground as damaging winds.

Image: National Weather Service

It does not matter if the wind is swirling in a funnel with a Tornado Warning or if it’s blowing along the ground in a straight line; wind gusts that high are dangerous.

-Jason
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