Downburst of wind causes massive damage

A downburst of wind caused damage at the I-10 overpass on State Road 53 late Sunday night, March 22, according to Madison County Emergency Management Director Tom Cisco. A downburst of wind is a strong ground-level wind system that emanates from a single source, blowing in a straight line in all directions from that source. Downbursts often produce damaging winds. The storm produced heavy winds and rain. The damage during the storm included billboard signs collapsing, posts holding billboard signs were ripped in half and two tractor-trailers blown over during the storm. T’Untriel Abney, a truck driver from Pensacola who works for Cheney Brothers Inc., had dropped his trailer, unhooked from it and was on break, while awaiting for his new trailer to arrive. He was parked at the old Shell/Burger King station on Hwy 53 South, across the street from Jimmie’s Auto Port. He was awoken by heavy winds and his truck shaking. He reported that he heard something and thought something had just hit his truck/trailer. He then saw sparks across the street (on the south side of Jimmie’s Auto Port). He stated that sparks started flying on the north side of the Auto Port. “It was raining hard but I could see a bigger darker area right in front of me where the sparks were flying,” said Abney. “The dark spot then moved into the field.” Abney recalled he then cranked his truck up and drove across the street to the Auto Port and went inside the store. When he returned to his parking spot, across the street, he saw that his tractor-trailer had been flipped over on its side. Upon getting out and looking over all the damage, he realized the billboard sign and the street lights that were right beside his truck were also destroyed. The billboard sign had been broken and ripped off of the four posts it stood on and the metal street light pole was broken off at the ground and lay stretched out flat. There was also a small tree that was uprooted. The employees inside of Jimmie’s Auto Port also heard all the commotion. Wendy Reynolds reported that she was working the register and the windows started “beating and rattling.” She had first thought it was just high winds until all the customers from outside came running inside the building screaming. When she finished checking the customers out, at the register, she went outside to survey the damage. What she found astonished her. On the south side of the building was a blown down billboard sign. The four huge wooden posts that once held the sign were broken and shredded. The sign now lay in the roadway/parking area. Electrical poles were also damaged and wires lay across the ground. On the north end of the building she saw another billboard sign shattered and lying out in the field. The seven wooden posts, that once held that sign, were also broken, twisted and shattered off. A hundred yards out in the field lay a tractor-trailer turned over on its side (yet, not the same tractor-trailer as Abney was hauling).

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