Tornadoes Slam Ala., Adding to Destructive Season Across the Region

February 19, 2008

Another wave of tornadoes materialized in the Deep South over the weekend and this time, in Prattville, Ala., several businesses on a commercially populated boulevard were severely damaged, according to a Department of Insurance spokesman.

Ragan Ingram of the Alabama Department of Insurance, said the scene was “surreal.” He said it was like something on TV.

The tornado, categorized as F-3, dropped down in two suburban neighborhoods on either side of Cobbs Ford Road, according to Ingram. He said several commercial properties were damaged including two banks, a Wal-Mart, a K-Mart, a KFC and a Sonic Drive-in.

Prattville’s Fire Station 3, where ALDOI stores its emergency response vehicle, also sustained heavy damage. Ingram said the vehicle was not affected by the tornado damage because it was still in north Alabama working at tornado damage sites from storms that hit earlier in the month.

While ALDOI is in the process of gathering data, Ingram said the state’s three major insurers (ALFA, State Farm and Allstate) so far have reported more than 750 property claims and between 500 and 600 auto claims.

Ingram said the tornado also struck the Daniel Pratt Elementary School in Prattville’s eastern section. With the storm occurring on a Sunday afternoon, Ingram said the school was empty and the business district was relatively quiet at the time.

Two people were seriously hurt and dozens more were injured according to Ingram. He said there are lots of roofs missing, but none of the affected structures were completely removed from their foundation slabs.

As of 8 a.m. today (Tuesday), the ALDOI disaster response vehicle will be located in the parking lot of Office Depot on Cobbs Ford Road, across from Wal-Mart.

“One of the lessons learned from Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina was that we needed a vehicle that would allow us to set up a mobile office in an area after a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or a tornado,” Alabama Insurance Commissioner Walter Bell said. “We were able to use the vehicle with success in Lawrence County and Jackson County following the storms earlier this month, and we will be setting it up again in Prattville.”

Alfa Insurance has dispatched a mobile response unit to Prattville to assist with claims service in the aftermath of Sunday’s severe storms.
Alfa is also dispatching additional claims adjusters to the area to meet the anticipated increase in claims activity. The mobile response unit and the additional adjusters will remain in the area as long as needed, according to a company spokesperson.

Tornadoes also touched down in Escambia County on the Florida Panhandle Sunday, according to an Associated Press report.

Four homes were destroyed in Molino, Fla., when a tornado touched down the National Weather Service reported.

Several other homes were damaged, but no injuries were immediately reported, the Escambia County Department of Public Safety said.
A shelter was set up at a church in Molino for residents who needed Red Cross assistance.

Sources: Alabama Department of Insurance
Associated Press
ALFA Insurance

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