1977 North Smithfield tornado
Beginning just a few miles north of downtown Birmingham near Tarrant, the tornado proceed north through northern Jefferson County producing F5 damage in the community of North Smithfield, also known as Hayes Highland, north of Sayreton. The tornado was blamed for 22 deaths and more then 125 injuries while damage was estimated at $15 million dollars. Hundreds of homes were completely destroyed while Daniel Payne College suffered extensive damage and was forced to close. Many residents were able to seek shelter thanks to a newly-implemented NOAA Weather Radio program in the area.
In addition to this tornado, several other tornadoes were reported from the same system in the Midwest, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina. One tornado in Floyd County, Georgia killed one person while another fatality was reported east of Birmingham in St Clair County.
The F5 tornado touched down near the end of the path of two other violent tornadoes that struck the Birmingham region in 1956 and in 1998. In 1998, another F5 started north of Tuscaloosa before ending southwest of Tarrant after killing 32. The 1956 F4 tornado which followed a similar path through Birmingham killed 25.
Dr Theodore Fujita, creator of the Fujita scale used to indicate tornado intensity, personally followed this storm supercell from an airplane tracking the tornado. After surveying the damage, Fujita considered giving it an F6 ranking before deciding on F5.
- NWS-Birmingham Internet Services Team (March 30, 2007) "April 4, 1977, Smithfield F5 Tornado." National Weather Service Forecast Office, Birmingham, AL
- "April 1977 Birmingham tornado" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia - accessed June 6, 2009