MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Looting was a huge concern in the aftermath of the storms, but it was, in a way, encouraged at one Madison County grocery store.
The Piggly Wiggly along Highway 53 in Harvest was flattened by an EF-5 tornado on April 27, 2011.
Sgt. Brent Patterson with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office said he vividly remembers hearing the call on his scanner.
“My heart just fell,” he said. “Right there in the afternoon, you know there’s people in there and when I arrived here and saw it, it’s in my mind forever.”
Remarkably, no lives were lost at the grocery store. Customers and employees huddled in the coolers
As for the Piggly Wiggly, with no hope of reopening, the store’s owner donated his goods for a greater good.
“When this tornado hit, there’s a lot of groceries in this store,” said Patterson in the wake of the tornadoes. “There’s food, there’s cleaning supplies and luckily enough, the owner of this business was gracious enough to allow us to take anything in this store.”
In the days to follow, Madison County Sheriff’s deputies bobbed and weaved their way through the store’s debris to gather the simplest, but most needed of items, including toilet paper and baby formula, all to be distributed to nearby damaged areas. That generosity continues to resonate today.
“His grocery store belonged to us and the citizens in this area that were affected by the storms,” said Patterson.
The grocery store’s site has since been cleared and the land is now for sale, but the lessons learned from that time period remain.
“We all came together as one for the community,” said Patterson.