1998 Oak Grove tornado
The Oak Grove tornado occurred on Wednesday, April 8, 1998 striking the western part of Jefferson County, and touching down again in neighboring St Clair County. It was one of only two F5 tornadoes that year. The other hit in Lawrence County, Tennessee on April 16.
A total of 16 tornadoes were confirmed across the southern States on April 8-9 with additional activity across the Carolinas and weaker tornadoes across the lower Great Lakes. A total of 35 were killed by the 3 killer tornadoes. More than 1,400 tornadoes were reported in 1998, the second most on record. The severity of the Spring tornadoes of 1998, as well as the year's active hurricane season, has been blamed on the previous winter's especially strong "El Niño".
Tuscaloosa County Tornado (F3)
The worst of the outbreak started at around 7:00 PM CDT when a supercell originating from Mississippi entered Pickens County and Tuscaloosa County. It produced an F3 and traveled north of the city of Tuscaloosa. 2 injuries were reported from this storm that traveled over 17 miles.
Jefferson County tornado (F5)
Shortly after 7:30 PM, the supercell spawned the Birmingham tornado that cut a 31-mile long, 3/4-mile wide swath through nine Birmingham suburbs with F3 to F5 damage including Oak Grove, Sylvan Springs, Rock Creek, McDonald Chapel and Edgewater. Over 1,000 homes and businesses were destroyed with the worst of the destruction occurring across the Oak Grove and McDonald Chapel areas. The second area affected by F5 damage was also devastated by the 1956 tornado that tracked through the same areas.
Thirty-two people were killed in this tornado. One young boy died nine days after this event from head injuries. His father was paralyzed from the waist down, and his mother suffered severe injuries. Another mother and her two children were killed when hundreds of pounds of debris was blown onto them.
The community of Oak Grove was one of the hardest hit locations. Oak Grove High School was damaged beyond repair with the elementary school portion destroyed. The Oak Grove Fire Station was heavily damaged as well. No one inside the school was killed but a group of cheerleaders practicing at the school's gymnasium escaped disaster with only minor injuries when a wall prevented a portion of the roof from falling on them.
The roof of the Rock Creek Church of God was blown off and several cars were blown 500 feet into a ravine. The church was turned into a trauma center. The Open Door Church in Minor also sustained heavy damage, with several members having to take shelter in hallways.
Had the storm remained on the ground, it would have gone into the northern sections of downtown Birmingham. A few miles further to the east, the Birmingham International Airport could have been affected as well. The storm lifted before reaching these sections of Birmingham. However, it touched down again in neighboring St Clair County, where two people were killed.
Debris from the tornado was scattered across central Alabama as far north as sections of Blount County.
The tornado's effects were noticed around the same time by the ABC 33/40 Birmingham tower camera, which was pointed toward the western suburbs. Though it was dark, a massive power failure occurred in western Birmingham, when several transmission lines coming from the Miller Steam Plant electric generating station were knocked off line. This was noticed during the long-form weather coverage on 33/40, which lasted most of the evening.
St. Clair County tornado (F2)
After crossing the northern suburbs of Birmingham, the supercell dropped another tornado in St. Clair County just before 9:00 PM killing 2 who were inside mobile homes when the tornado hit. It remained over rural areas for 14 miles and partially destroyed a church.
- "Birmingham Tornado of April 1998." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 19 Mar 2007, 02:38 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 27 Mar 2007 
- Seale, Kathy (April 6, 2008) "Survivors of the 1998 F-5 tornado in Jefferson and St. Clair counties recall the trauma." Birmingham News
- April 8, 1998 Tornado (NWS Birmingham, AL)
- NWS Service Assessment