January 2012 tornado outbreak

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Birmingham News aerial view of damage on Center Point Parkway

The January 2012 tornado outbreak was a tornado outbreak that caused significant damage in several regions of the Southern United States and killed two in the Birmingham District on January 23, 2012.

During the late afternoon of January 22, a particularly dangerous situation tornado watch was issued for much of Arkansas and parts of Tennessee and Mississippi. At roughly sunset, severe storms developed along a pronounced line in central Arkansas with the southern cells prompting tornado warnings. Several tornadoes touched down before the storms reformed into a squall line near midnight.

Overnight, another round of tornadoes developed in Alabama ahead of the squall line. Early that morning, more very severe tornadoes hit the western and northeast parts of Jefferson County. Severe damage was reported in those areas, as well as in Chilton County, some of the same places hit extremely hard by the catastrophic April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak. Two people were killed and Center Point Elementary School was destroyed. After an inspection conducted by the National Weather Service in Birmingham, the tornado was rated an EF3, the strongest in 2012.

President Obama signed a disaster declaration for Jefferson and Chilton Counties on February 1, allowing federal programs to supplement local recovery efforts.


EF# Location County Coord. Time (CST) Path length Comments/Damage
EF0 Panola area Sumpter 32.9287°N 88.2364°W 1:36 AM 0.36 miles One home suffered roof damage and another suffered minor siding damage.
EF2 Koffman area Tuscaloosa 33.3257°N 87.6579°W 1:42 AM 0.45 miles Two dozen pine trees destroyed, roof of house torn off, and a barn destroyed.
EF2 SE of Windham Springs Tuscaloosa 33.3961°N 87.4440°W 2:00 AM 0.56 miles Several dozen trees were snapped and three campers were destroyed
EF2 Oak Grove area Tuscaloosa, Jefferson 33.4316°N 87.3071°W 2:09 AM 13 miles 1 death – Numerous trees snapped or uprooted and several structures damaged to varying degrees. One person was killed after a mobile home was completely destroyed.
EF0 Parker area Sumter 32.6567°N 88.1705°W 2:21 AM 1.1 miles Trees were damaged and uprooted. A shed suffered minor damage
EF3 Clay/Center Point area Jefferson, St Clair 33.70°N 86.80°W 3:10 AM 15.5 miles 1 death – Possibly part of a long track tornado. Extensive damage in the community with many houses damaged or destroyed and businesses also heavily damaged. At least 100 others were injured. Survey still incomplete and rating preliminary and subject to change.
EF1 N of Marion Perry 32.71°N 87.31°W 3:33 AM 2.1 miles Many trees were uprooted and snapped.
EF2 Maplesville area Perry, Chilton 32.72°N 87.27°W 3:37 AM 39.5 miles A church lost its steeple and part of its roof and its sanctuary was destroyed. A number of homes suffered partial or complete roof loss. A radio tower collapsed. Extensive tree damage ocurred along much of the damage path with hundreds uprooted or snapped.
EF0 Childersburg area Talladega 33.30°N 86.30°W 4:35 AM 5.4 miles A number of trees were uprooted and snapped.
EF1 Enterprise area Chilton 32.5209°N 86.4119°W 5:36 AM 43.7 miles Two homes were shifted off their foundations while another lost most of its roof.
EF1 North Millbrook area Elmore 32.5209°N 86.4119°W 6:48 AM 4.02 miles Several homes were damaged and dozens of trees were blown down. An apartment lost its roof and an auto center door was blown in.
Sources: NWS Birmingham


The heaviest tornado damage occurred in the Oak Grove and Clay/Center Point areas of Jefferson County and in the Maplesville community in Chilton and Perry counties.

Hundreds were injured and two people died during the tornado event: Jefferson County International Baccalaureate student Christina Heichelbech, 16, of Clay, was thrown from her home and found, on her mattress, 40 feet away. Retired trucker Bobby Frank Sims, 83, of Oak Grove, died when his mobile home was thrown hundreds of feet.

Hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged and thousands lost power service due to the storms. Electrical service was restored within days. Center Point Parkway, closed to through traffic immediately after the storm, was reopened on Wednesday. Jefferson County Schools were closed on Monday, with those nearest the damaged areas remaining closed a second day. Center Point Elementary School was heavily damaged by the storm and is slated to be rebuilt. The home of Stan and Jeanne Leo on Winewood Road in Birmingham's Echo Highlands neighborhood was lifted off its foundation, but survived intact. The owners credited their decision to use framing standards developed for hurricane-prone areas. Early estimates of insured damage from the storms ranged from $15 to 30 million.


  • January 22–23, 2012 tornado outbreak. (January 25, 2012) Wikipedia - accessed, January 25, 2012
  • Oliver, Mike (January 25, 2012) "Alabama tornadoes: 2 twisters struck Jefferson County in single supercell, killing one person each." Birmingham News
  • Spencer, Thomas (January 26, 2012) "Sturdy structure keeps Birmingham house intact in tornado, but not in place." Birmingham News
  • "Damage from Monday’s storms may total $30M." (January 26, 2012) Birmingham Business Journal