Communities still recovering 15 years after deadly tornado - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Communities still recovering 15 years after deadly tornado

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For some, it seems a lifetime ago. For others, it's like it happened yesterday.

Fifteen years ago an EF-5 tornado hit western Jefferson County with a vengeance. It happened at night which made rescue attempts even more difficult. Morning showed the depth of devastation. Thirty-four were lost. More than 200 others were injured.

More than one thousand houses destroyed. Then President Clinton came to the area to see the damage. He told the victims it would take years to rebuild what had been destroyed.

Communities that have since picked up the pieces and rebuilt as best they could. But people who lived through that day have wounds that are still fresh. They admit their neighborhoods will never be the same

Sarah Ray and her neighbors say they remember the details vividly.

"We were on our way from crestview funeral home to our house. We didn't even realize what was going on," she said.

Ray says she was in a car and not in the path of the tornado. She didn't realize how bad the damage was until she got to her McDonald Chapel neighborhood. Her house had minor damage. But her daughter and grandchildren, who lived down the street,  had a close call.

"The one room that they were in was the one room that was not harmed," said Ray.

Bobby Cromer, whose mother lost her house, says it looked like a war zone

"It was devastating. It looked like a bomb had went off," said Cromer.

Cromer says the neighborhood is surviving . But it's far from thriving.

"Nobody wants to move back because of that. We're in what we call out here tornado alley," he said.

He says people are afraid history will repeat itself.

"We've had three tornadoes come out here since '56. Devastating ones," he said.

Still, some facilities came back bigger and better. Open Door Church, which was leveled , has rebuilt.

In neighboring Oak Grove, a new high school was built one mile and a half from the one destroyed  fifteen years ago.

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