Marengo Co. largely spared by storm

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 2, 2007


Marengo County residents were largely spared from the deadly destruction yesterday as tornadoes ripped through neighboring counties.

State officials said 18 deaths were related to the damage caused by the tornadoes and severe storms. Parts of Wilcox County, including Millers Ferry, were hit hard. The worst of the damage was found in Enterprise, where officials say 15 people at Enterprise High School died.

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Schools throughout Marengo County closed at lunch in preparation for what meteorologists warned could be some of the most severe storms of the tornado season. Despite high winds and rains, damage was contained to the southern part of the county in the form of downed tree limbs and light property damage.

Marengo County Sheriff Jesse Langley said his department did not respond to any major incidents related to storm damage in the county. However, several county rescue squads were dispatched to help in Millers Ferry.

In Demopolis, shoppers at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter were asked to stay in the store as they ceased check out operations because of severe weather around 5 p.m. City officials also canceled their regular city council meeting, which was to be held at 5:15 p.m.

City officials in both Demopolis and Linden reported no structural damage of any kind by the tornadoes.

In Millers Ferry, trailer homes were flipped over and trees downed by a storm that caused &8220;extensive damage,&8221; said Bernadine Williams in the Wilcox County Emergency Management Agency office. Alabama Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Yasamie Richardson said one person died in Millers Ferry. In addition to the 15 people at Enterprise High School, Richardson said two more people died in other parts of Enterprise.

More than 50 people were injured in Enterprise, about 90 miles south of Montgomery. Rescue workers dug into rubble at Enterprise High School in search of students unable to get out. Big search lights illuminated part of the school Thursday night where the search continued and a continuous stream of rescue workers filed in and out of the area.

Erin Garcia, a 17-year-old senior, said students had gathered in hallways around 11 a.m. as a precaution. Some were allowed to have parents pick them up, and school buses lined up to take the others around 1 p.m., she said, but the weather turned bad and sirens wailed. Then lights went out, she said, and the storm struck.

After the storm passed, she found the hallway she was in was spared, but a roof and wall collapsed on students in another hallway.

Martha Rodriguez, a 15-year-old sophomore, said she had left the school about five minutes before the storm hit. When she returned, she joined others in shock to find the collapsed hall, where rescue workers were trying to reach those inside.

Debris littered the area around the school, with much of its roofing blown across the neighborhood. Windows were blown out of cars and buses in the school parking lot, and trees lay on top of some cars. One car was on top of another, and one was upside down.

Alex Gibbs at the national weather service in Tallahassee, Fla. said Enterprise was slammed with a &8220;very significant tornado.&8221;

It struck about a month after tornadoes slammed central Florida, where 20 died.

Toni Kaminski, at Medical Center in Enterprise, which also received storm damage, said about 45 patients were brought in, including some from the high school, and 17 were in the emergency department. But she said the injuries were mostly lacerations and stress-related. Ten others from Enterprise went to a hospital at Dothan.

The school &8220;appears to have been right in the path,&8221; said Paul Duval, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, Fla., which monitors southeast Alabama.

Editor Sam R. Hall and staff writer Brandon Glover contributed to this report.