In has happened before, more than once and it can happen again and again. That should be the message we take from today's anniversary of the devastating March 21, 1932, tornadoes that wreaked havoc across West Alabama, especially Northport.

It was a Sunday afternoon, the first day of spring and the day of the worst tornado outbreak in Alabama to that point in history and it devastated Northport. 32 people died and more the 500 were injured in a town of just over 2,100 according to the 1930 census. Nine died and 30 homes were also destroyed in Moundville. Twisters also struck Bibb, Marengo and Perry counties.

One was killed a tornado unroofed part of a high school and several houses in Faunsdale. 29 people were killed in Demopolis with reports of boxcars from nearby train tracks flying through the air. Three were killed and 12 injured Southwest of Linden. A large tornado cut across Perry and Bibb counties where rural communities were reportedly obliterated, small homes swept away, and entire families left homeless; one family lost seven members. 150 injuries were reported.

At least 38 tornadoes—including 27 deadly tornadoes and several long-track twisters struck west to east from Texas to South Carolina and north to south from Illinois to Alabama. They killed more than 330 people, leaving more than 10,000 homeless. Northport's was the most destructive.

I have heard the story of that fateful day my whole life. My mother Audrey was a little six-year-old girl living just off what was back then called Broad Street (now University Blvd.). Her parents house overlooked what now is the site of the Mercedes Amp. Just across the river was ground zero for the twister - downtown Northport.

What happened that day burned indelibly in her memory the rest of her life.

You have to realize in 1932 there were no severe weather awareness campaigns, no emergency management agencies, they had none of the sophisticated warning capabilities we have today. There was no such thing as weather radar, broadcast meteorologists, tornado warning systems or community storm shelters. The U.S. Weather Bureau had become a civilian agency in 1890 but their technology and communications were rudimentary.

The first sign you might get back then that a tornado was approaching didn't come until moments before the strike. Especially in the south where low clouds, torrential rain, hills and trees make funnel clouds hard to spot.

My mother told me the wind started blowing hard and then looking out the back window they saw the twister strike downtown and watched as the debris lifted up and swirled, then it was gone. They later learned that the Tuscaloosa Country Club had been destroyed before the storm crossed the river.

She always referred to the total quiet that was left behind, nothing stirred for long minutes, then the sirens started. She recalled how for hours ambulances, fire trucks and police cars ran back and forth across the old drawbridge with sirens blaring and red lights flashing.

There were so many injured that there were not enough ambulances to transport them all. She remembered seeing injured people in the backs of pickups, some screaming in pain, being taken to DCH, which was on the UA campus then.

She always remembered how UA students helped, fraternity boys, football team members and others pitched in to help get people out from under the rubble.

When word of the destruction began to flow to Montgomery, then Governor B. M. Miller immediately issued a proclamation calling on all Alabama residents to rise to the occasion and help those in distress.

Current meteorological estimates are the tornado on today's Enhanced Fujita Scale would have been rated an EF-4 with wind speeds 208-260 mph.

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