Clean up begins after deadly Pickens County tornado

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PICKENS COUNTY, Ala. (WTOK) - Wind damage from severe thunderstorms on Saturday left us feeling lucky. The wind damage was mostly minor, and no injuries were reported locally. Just north in Pickens County, however, a powerful tornado is leaving a small community near Carrollton picking up their lives.

The sound of chainsaws is a sound with which we have grown familiar. In the Settlement Community in Pickens County, we're hearing it again.

Alabama State Senator Bobby Singleton of District 24 said, "this scene is far too often. We can't control what God does with the weather, but we can do some of those preventative things."

It's another tornado but a familiar scene. Pieces of people's lives, memories, are hanging in trees. Those trees are on the ground, put there by the destructive force of the tornado.

"Unbelievable," said one resident, who is among those trying to find those pieces among the debris.

She experienced the tornado and said, "I noticed the rain started getting heavier and the wind started getting heavier. The rain was going horizontal. Then I told everyone, 'I think we need to get into the basement.'"

Here 92-year-old father lives in this community. His home was damaged but spared. He owns another house less than a quarter-mile away. That house, along with two others on either side of it, are now gone, leveled by the tornado.

"It happened so fast, I didn't get a chance to get a thought," he said with a light-hearted chuckle.

Another familiar scene, a mobile home obliterated. It looks like an explosion. With so many vulnerable residents, Senator Bobby Singleton wonders why there were no shelters in the area. He said, "we still don't have proper storm shelters that we need to have in these communities to at least give families an opportunity to be safe."

The Senator was surveying the damage along with Alabama State Representative A.J. McCampbell of District 71.

Representative McCampbell said, "the loss of life is devastating to anybody. For it to be an event of this nature, it's truly one of those things no one expects to happen."

While the surveys continue, the clean up goes on, and these families near Carrollton try to find the pieces of their lives amid the rubble.

The National Weather Service in Birmingham said late Sunday this tornado is at least an EF-2 with 134 mph winds. However, they said the survey is ongoing and that rating could change.