HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – On November 15, 1989, a destructive F-4 tornado tore through Madison County.
Around 4:30 p.m., the tornado touched down on Madkin Mountain on Redstone Arsenal, southwest of Huntsville. The storm struck during the start of rush hour and moved across two major highways.
A total of 21 people died and 463 people were injured. Nineteen of the 21 deaths from that day happened along Airport Road between Memorial Parkway and Whitesburg Drive.
The tornado produced an 18.5-mile-long damage path and at its peak produced winds over 200 mph. The tornado was around 880 yards and after producing miles of damage lifted near Killingsworth Cove.
The severe storms developed from a rapidly strengthening and robust storm system that tracked through the region. The squall line, or line of storms, also led to an F1 tornado in Jackson County, large hail, and wind damage.
Along that path, the tornado destroyed 259 homes, 80 businesses, and two schools while damaging another 278 homes, eight businesses, three churches, and more than one thousand vehicles. In the Jones Valley area specifically, the Jones Valley Elementary School was demolished.
Above is a look at some of the images across Madison County 34 years ago, provided by the National Weather Service.
News 19’s Chief Video Journalist, Gregg Stone shared his first-hand experience with Meteorologist Jessica Camuto. At the time of the F4 tornado, Gregg had been with the station for ten years.
An image that will always stick with Gregg is when he was “following a police officer as they are searching through debris trying to find people, trying to find survivors.” He recalled, “All of a sudden lighting light up the sky. You see the movie theater that’s in front of us and it just lights up the whole area. Then it all comes into focus, that this is huge there’s a lot of damage here.”
Through the heartbreak and pain, the Madison County community pulled together in a time of need to support one another.