Tornado kills one in Wilcox County

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 2, 2007



MILLERS FERRY &045; One man was killed and 30 to 40 homes destroyed when a tornado touched down in a residential area in Millers Ferry Thursday.

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Bernadine Williams, director of Wilcox County Emergency Management Agency, confirmed Cliff Gaston died when his mobile home was destroyed. She said two other people were injured and had been transported to J. Paul Jones Hospital in Camden.

Neighbors told them Gaston had taken shelter in his utility room, which &8220;is supposed to be the safest place you can be in a mobile home,&8221; said Chuck Owens, Gaston’s brother-in-law.

Williams said the EMA has set a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Sand Island.

She added that most of the homes in the area were secondary homes, although there are several full time residents in the community.

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.

Mack Andrews, who manages a grocery store in Camden, said customers described a scene of devastation at the community on a bend of the Alabama River.

Alabama Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Yasamie Richardson said one person died in Millers Ferry.

Providing Help

Capt. Don New of the Salvation Army was on site Thursday and said the agency was prepared to help in the short-term, but will stay for the long-term as well.

New and his wife, Kelley, along with three volunteers, set up a feeding unit Thursday evening to feed a hot meal to first responders and individual families.

Jakki Caldwell-Phillips of the Black Belt chapter of the American Red Cross was also on the scene.

A tornado also touched down twice Thursday in the rural community of Five Points near Orrville, where two homes were destroyed. Fortunately, nobody was home.

Schools in central and south Alabama were dismissed early due to the severe weather. The Dallas County Courthouse, Wallace Community College Selma and Concordia College all closed early in anticipation of bad weather.

James Carson walked around the scattered debris in his front yard in Five Points, trying to get a signal on his cell phone. He said he was at work with M&B Railroad just after 1 p.m. when he learned his mobile home was affected.

Carson said he lived alone and worked seven days a week, most weeks.

Carson’s home on County Road 342 was the second to sustain damage. Minutes before, the twister touched down on County Road 31, demolishing the home of Willie Lee Mitchell, pushing the house off its foundation and scattering debris in the tree tops enroute to Carson’s home.

Dallas County Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Woods secured the property until Mitchell returned. Authorities said she was &8220;running some errands&8221; in Selma and was not home when the tornado touched down.

According to reports damage was sustained in Lowndes County. Minor damage was reported in Davenport, Sandy Ridge and Letohatchee communities. There were no reports of injuries.

Associated Press writer Bob Johnson contributed to this report.