A surprise storm struck Oxford shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday, ripping limbs from trees in the Cider Ridge subdivision and along Friendship Road.
In the wake of the storm, which lasted about 15 minutes and brought with it winds of up to 50 mph, debris covered roads, 195 Alabama Power customers were without electricity, and Oxford police closed Mellon Bridge Road. Crews with bucket trucks were still trying to clear debris at about 4 p.m. as police turned residents back from the road, disrupting at least one school bus route.
“It seemed like the storm just grew right over this area,” said Diana Shull, who watched crews work while she waited at the end of her driveway for her husband to bring her children home from school. “Debris was flying everywhere.”
Meteorologist Jessica Chace with the National Weather Service office in Calera said that in the heat of the day, pressure built atop the Oxford neighborhoods that were affected by the storm, and clouds billowed above them. Then the storm erupted, pushing a rainy column of wind down to the surface, where it collided with the earth and spread out quickly.
“It just kind of collapsed on top of that area,” Chace said, noting that this particular type of storm is called a microburst.
One man returned home to find damage surrounding his mobile home, where wet, green leaves clung to the siding and mud puddles formed at the edge of Friendship Road. Down the road, shingles were peeled back from the roof of a large white home with towering columns.
In the yard a pecan tree was split in two.
Sherra Claunch said she had just finished manicuring the yard of her Cider Ridge home when when dark clouds crowded the sky, suddenly giving way to a windy downpour that left her lawn littered with limbs. At 4 p.m. she was still without electricity.
“It was just a very sudden thing,” she said. “Now my yard looks like a tornado hit it.”
Another summer disturbance moved through the area Wednesday night. Excessive heat during the day helped trigger showers and thunderstorms that moved into the area in the evening hours, said Jody Aaron, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Calera.
“There were copious amounts of lightning with it,” Aaron said, which likely caused the numerous power outages throughout north Alabama.
Aaron said he’d received reports of those power outages but had heard of few downed power lines, which means those lightning strikes may have hit the power lines themselves, he said.
The heavy rains that moved into the area late Wednesday remained for some time, Aaron said, which prompted a flooding advisory for eastern Calhoun and Cleburne counties at 8:58 p.m. Most of the rain had ended by 10:30 p.m., he said.
It was unclear late Wednesday how many customers were without power in the Anniston area, or how long the outage lasted; the Anniston Star office was without power for about an hour. Attempts to reach an Alabama Power spokesperson weren’t immediately successful by 10:30 p.m.
Power was out in portions of north Anniston and Saks, however, including Anniston Plaza shopping center and areas behind Anniston Middle School. The traffic signals were out at the U.S. 431 / Alabama 21 intersection.