Before the sun came up on the morning of April 27th Cullman, Alabama residents awoke to the sounds of tornado sirens. The storm came upon them so fast that before many could react and get into their storm shelters their homes already had major damage. In the community of Arkadelphia in southern Cullman County they had tons of power lines and trees blown down on homes that morning. While the residents there were beginning cleaning up storm damage the storms had just began for other parts of Cullman. By the afternoon hours the residents received the news update that there was another tornado that was on the ground headed straight into Downtown Cullman down Highway 278. Some of the residents were recording the tornado as it approached the blocks close to the All Steak Restaurant in Downtown.
As it tore through town it caused major damage to First Federal Bank, and the First Baptist Church where it severely damaged the steeple and roof as well as the beautiful stained glass windows. It then hit the Courthouse across the street. It tore half the roof off and ripped the marble off the outside walls. Storeowners in the small shops less than a block away were hiding in their center rooms as they heard the windows exploding out of their own shops. The tornado continued through the main part of the towns beautiful historic district. It caused major destruction down Fourth and Fifth Streets S.E. tearing buildings down in its path including the well known furniture store “A Little Bit of Everything” and the “Busy Bee Cafe as well as causing damage to stores such as “Mary Carter” and “Vincent’s Furniture”.Two schools had damage which are located in the Historic District. East Elementary had trees down on their property while Saint Paul’s Lutheran School across the street had severe damage to the second story of their building. All Cullman schools were closed for over a week.
Some of the most beautiful historic homes that were standing strong for well over 100 years are now torn off their foundations and have no roofs. The large old oak trees that lined the neighborhood streets are now lying inside as well as on top of homes. People have found contents of their homes several blocks away and they know a lot of items never will be found. A site I thought we would never see as Cullman residents was the military patrolling the streets of one of the most beloved neighborhoods in the city. With curfews that immediately came into effect and most stores closed and no electricity for over a week, life literally came to a halt.
Life is slowly getting back to normal. Stores that suffered damage have opened back up and some have their windows boarded up,they have spray painted we are open on the boards. Although clean up has begun in most of Cullman it will be years before everything is rebuilt. Some of the southern charm may have been jeopardized due to the extent of the damage but Cullman will survive this devastation and will rebuild stronger.