BEAUREGARD, Ala. — Citizens of Beauregard are picking up chainsaws, removing tree trunks and sifting through the debris that has left their small community stunned.
Large trucks and vehicles carrying bulldozers drive through the small roads bordered by uprooted trees. The people in this small town walk up and down the streets and stare at the destruction. On Lee County Road 11, there’s a gathering of mournful neighbors.
Johnny Washington’s mobile home is located off Lee County Road 11. Yesterday, Washington, 55, was alone in his home and asleep during the storm when he heard his dog barking outside.
“I looked outside my window to check on my dog and saw these huge clouds to the east,” Washington said.
Then, he realized what he was looking at — an E-4 tornado was tearing through farms across his street. He couldn’t believe it, he said, because this is a small community. It’s a place where farming is a fixture and neighbors are family. And he watched as the tornado threatened to take his.
“It’s true when they say tornadoes sound like a train,” Washington said.
It was heading his direction. Washington nervously hid beneath his bed. From where he was lying, he could see the tornado approaching outside the window.
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“I was breathing real hard,” Washington said. “I’ll tell you what’s crazy, looking outside, seeing that tornado move right in front of your house.”
The tornado roared louder and louder as it approached. Then, it was pitch blackness, Washington said.
He felt his home lift from the ground.
“I felt the whole trailer rise a bit,” Washington said.
It didn’t feel like reality. He always gets alerts about tornadoes, but nothing ever happens, he said. He closed his eyes while beneath his bed and felt the world shake.
“Then, it stopped,” Washington said.
The mobile home collapsed from its foundation. It felt like an eternity, but it couldn’t have lasted more than a few minutes, Washington said. The shaking ceased. He stayed beneath the bed in disbelief, then rushed outside to check on his nephew who lives next door. His nephew's house was unscathed. Washington’s home was broken in half.
“We’ve never experienced anything like this,” Washington said. “I can’t believe this.”
The tornado is the deadliest in the country since the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado in 2013, which took 24 lives. There have been 23 deaths in Beauregard as of time of publication.
Washington said a family member of his is among the victims. He chose to withhold their name.
“There’s a lot of death here,” Washington said. “It’s hell.”
A trampoline about 50 yards from his home was scrunched and carried by the 170 mph winds to the side of his trailer. Whole trunks of trees were collapsed, and the insulation from his home was strewn across the road. His mother, Kayla Washington, was there in the morning, comforting her son.
“I don’t know what to say,” Kayla Washington said as she looked at the pieces of a former home. “We’ve been here all our lives.”
Kelton Love lives near Washington. He said his mother and his brother were in a mobile home on Lee Road 39, an area that suffered the worst of the tornado. Love said his mother’s home was lifted by the tornado while they were inside.
“They had bruises all over and knots on their head … but they’re good now,” Love said.
He was there to help any way he could.
Washington’s niece was beside him when a friend announced that a few children were confirmed dead. Washington turned to his niece. She asked if he now had a story to tell, and Washington, forcing a smile, didn’t reply.
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