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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Flashback: Ryland - April 3, 1974 (Ryland History)

Here is a great read provided as a comment by Rylandman in reference to one of our recent post. In case you have missed it, Rylandman has provided numerous comments to our postings that are too good to miss. Below you will Find the text of the comment:

Ryland - April 3, 1974
provided by Rylandman, April 12, 2008 5:11 PM

Wednesday, April 3, 1974 was just another warm and blustery spring day for the people of Ryland. The tornado watches and the ominous brisk, warm south wind of that day put some Ryland residents on edge but most went about their business as usual. Tornado watches had become a way of life for Madison County. For the most part, people had become complacent since it had been years since a major tornado. The spring weather of 1973 should have put us on notice for things to come. That was the year of the historic flood. Flint River by a wide margin broke all recorded high water marks.

April 3 was a normal work day for me with the exception of Momma being in the hospital. The home place had an unusual loneliness that day due to Momma being absent and our concern for her. After my work, Daddy, Gregory and I went to the hospital for a visit. The hospital is now called Huntsville east. We were on a high floor with a picture window on the west end. Late that afternoon just before darkness took the last light of the day, dark clouds with flickering lightening filled the western sky. The hospital TV was reporting a major tornado heading NE on the ground with severe damage. Also, there were reports of many injuries being transported to the Huntsville Hospital Emergency Room from multiple tornados.

Daddy, Gregory and I stayed with Momma until 10:00 o’clock. The tornado threat had ended. When we were leaving the hospital, the night was filled with the eerie sound of distant sirens from numerous emergency vehicles. My heart sank in sympathy for all the tornado victims and how unimaginable and fearful it must be. While riding home in my new Dodge Dart and listening to the radio, we heard an all clear from the National Weather Service.

Finally, we were home after a very long day. Daddy was getting ready for bed and Gregory and I were listening to the police scanner to get news about the tornado damage. Among the buzz of the routine scanner traffic, a policeman from the City of Trianna reported a large tornado crossing Tennessee River. Tornados generally travel NE and Trianna was SW of Ryland. Gregory and I immediately concluded that we should leave home and find a storm shelter. Daddy at first refused to go. After a brief argument, I won and Daddy suggested that we go to Finas Parton’s storm cellar. Again, riding in my new Dodge Dart, we headed for the storm shelter. On the way, Randy Brewer was standing on side of the road next to Bill Burk’s house. He was waving us in to join a large group gathered at the Burk house. Bill Burk had a carport under his house that was scooped out of a dirt bank. From memory, most of the house was over the carport. The level of the floor in the carport in relation to the dirt bank would provide protection from direct hits of flying debris.

The carport was full of my Ryland friends and neighbors. They were nervously chattering about the earlier tornados around Harvest and Hazel Green but unaware of one that just crossed the Tennessee River. As I plugged in my police scanner, the Huntsville Police were already talking about a tornado crossing the Parkway somewhere near the Parkway City Mall. The conclusion was immediate in our group that a major tornado was heading toward Ryland and all of the men and boys ran outside. The night was clear and calm. Visibility was good all the way to Monte Sano Mountain. We were fooled by the tornado at first glance because of the angle of Monte Sano Mountain in relation to our position. First, we saw a small secondary tornado that spun off the main funnel. It was not touching the ground. Seeing the small dangling funnel gave us a temporary hope for a miss. The hope didn’t last long, the main tornado was still in Huntsville and the loud roar didn’t match the small dangling funnel cloud. Suddenly, the sky fell to the ground like dropping a black curtain on our side of Monte Sano. A wide area of dark boiling clouds was headed our way. Only one verbal reaction came from the group. Olin Vann said, “There it is”. We all made a made dash to the car port with the exception of Daddy. I had to turn and drag him into the house. He wanted to look.

Getting Daddy inside slowed me and Gregory down. Everyone had taken position in cars and under tables. Olin and Ester Vann were hunkered under a metal table and invited us to join. That would later prove to be a good choice. By then debris was striking the house as if fired from a machine gun. The noise was tremendous and the sky had a vivid green glow. Ester Vann was crying for the safety of her two boys who were in the cars. Next, the windows blew out simultaneously as if explosives had been placed. Breathing became hard and the pressure pulled at the skin. Grit and small debris were flying and made it necessary to cover our eyes. The most spectacular was the sounds made by a dying house. The house screamed and squalled and left with the tornado. The most dangerous thing happened next. Concrete blocks, large pieces of wood and other tornado debris rained down from the sky. I saw concrete blocks bounce off the metal table. When the tornado passed the sound stopped immediately and it began an icy rain. The rain was so cold it was almost unbearable on my back. I was miserable, wet and cold. I could hear screams from the cars but everyone seemed OK. We could not locate Bill Burk for awhile but he was soon found uninjured. The people in the cars had to be dug out. No one was injured but my new Dodge Dart was smashed to about waist high.

At one point after the tornado passed and before we had crawled from under the table, the lighting was flickering and I could see only stubby trees where our house and barns once stood. I told Daddy, we lost everything. His only reply, “We did”? Don’t think Daddy ever recovered emotionally from the tornado.

Daddy, Gregory and I left the Burk place on foot to check on his brother, Robert Miller and the Grady Everett Family. We could see that Grady Everett’s house was on fire. During the walk, I noticed the air smelled like pine and cedar trees. The roads were full of debris and power lines. It was very difficult to walk especially without a flashlight. The trip to Robert Miller’s and the Everett’s took a bit of maneuvering but we finally found Robert. His house was damaged but not enough to wet all his clothes. Robert gave us a change of clothes. His shirt and pants didn’t fit me very well but they sure did feel good. Bobby Rosenblum, a Huntsville Policeman, couldn’t get his car to Ryland so he walked. Bobby, Gregory and I checked on the Everett’s. The tornado had taken the top half of the house and the remainder was burning. After counting cars, it appeared the family may have been at home. Donny Dean, a relative was in the front yard visibly upset. Donny was convinced the family was in the house burning. David Rosenblum and I checked the house and the Everett’s were not there. They went to a nearby storm cellar at the Tobe Hudson home.

Gregory and I took a swing by Pete Smart’s house and it was gone. The ground was bare where house once stood. His car was on the railroad track. Good thing he wasn’t home.

Gregory and I lost contact with Daddy. Uncle Robert said he went to look at the damage at our home place. We were terrified at the prospects of Daddy stumbling around in the dark among the debris. All three of us made it home at about the same time; we walked upon Wayne Sharp and Jerry Brewer looking at the devastation of our house and barns. Wayne and Jerry thought we were dead and almost lost it emotionally when they saw us. I appreciated their reaction.

The night lasted forever. At one point that night, I walked out of the tornado damage area and found a State Trooper.The Trooper used his radio to contact the hopsital to make sure Momma knew we were safe. The disaster was wide spread and affected many people in several areas and, as a result, we didn't see many people that night. The lack of official support lasted several days but Ryland cared for itself the old timey way, neighbor helping neighbor.

The sun rose on a clear and cool day on the morning of April 4. The morning found me alone on our hill top waiting for that sunrise. The light revealed tornado wreckage as far as the eye could see. The experience was like a movie scene without the music. The wreckage was indescribable and my emotions were focused on what I was seeing along with my thoughts of surviving a once in a life time event. I later found the remains of our clock and the time was stuck at 11:05 PM. A time and date that changed Ryland forever.


Additional Resource:

  • Talk Weather, April 3-4, 1974 news segment (with video)

  • Tornado Super Outbreak April 3, 1974

  • Huntsville Learns to Live With Tornadoes

  • .

    Death of a Local Icon: Bob Dunnavant Sr.

    Broadcasting icon Bob Dunnavant Sr. dies at 85"...This is a tribute to his life written by his son, author and publisher Keith Dunnavant..."
    [Reference: The News Courier ...Athen's Alabama's Best Source for Local News]


    Huntsville Alabama Post Office Hours

    Huntsville Alabama Post Office Hours, April 15, 2008 Tax Day:
    Drop your taxes at one of the following locations to get an "April 15" postmark. The Following U.S. Postal Service locations are open until midnight Tuesday night.

  • The Huntsville Processing & Distribution Facility, 3408 Wall Triana Hwy.

  • 615 Clinton Ave.

  • 645 Wynn Drive

  • 2501 Mastin Lake Road

  • 3605 Governors Drive

  • 8401 Whitesburg Drive

  • File Under: Huntsville Post Office Extends Hours
    Reference: Postal News Network

    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Madison County Polling Places

    To find the appropriate voting location for the Maysville and Ryland areas visit Madison County Polling Places


    Wednesday, April 9, 2008

    Maysville and Ryland History

    The Maysville and Ryland Alabama Area News would like to thank "rylandman" for his recent comments relative to the history of the Maysville and Ryland area. Thanks Rylandman ...very informative and very interesting. We truly appreciate your taking the time to provide our readers with this information.

    Check out some of the contributions (comments) by rylandman:

  • Comments on the Cedar Mill

  • Comments on Maysville

  • Local Cemetery Comments

  • Comments on 25th Alabama Cavalry Battalion Confederate States

  • Keep those comments coming!


    Friday, April 4, 2008

    Mailbox Locator

    Would you like to know where the USPS Blue Mailboxes are in the Ryland are: Mailbox Locator


    Wednesday, April 2, 2008

    Great Gift Idea: Photo Stamps

    Here's a great idea ...put a picture of your Harley on real U.S. Postage or create your own real postage stamps with your photo of choice "...put your own picture on your stamps. Imagine sending a birthday card to your mother ...when she gets it in the mail, it has a stamp on it that is a picture of her holding you in her arms...."