At Least 4 Hurt in Birmingham Tornado, Just Days After Min Wage Struck Down

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March 2, 2016 – BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — At least four people were injured Tuesday after a tornado left a trail of damage southwest of Birmingham, an emergency official said.

The National Weather Service says preliminary damage reports suggest an EF-2 tornado hit Bessemer Monday night, 15 miles southwest of Birmingham.

Surveyors say the peak winds topped out at 120 miles per hour. They say the 600-yard wide tornado touched down at 11:16 p.m. Monday near Academy Drive.

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It traveled 4.9 miles and lasted less than 10 minutes. It snapped and uprooted dozens of trees which caused damage to many homes and apartments. The tornado intensified as it approached the Frank House Municipal Golf Course where the clubhouse was destroyed.

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The Alabama state legislature passed a far-reaching bill last Thursday preempting the right of cities and local governments to enact higher local minimum wages, and Governor Robert Bentley signed it into law less than an hour after it passed. Immediately, more than 40,000 of the lowest-paid workers in Birmingham will be denied the pay raises they were to receive under an ordinance enacted by the city to set a $10.10 per hour local minimum wage.

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Action on the preemption bill, HB174, was extraordinarily swift. Put on a fast track ahead of all other legislative business by Republican leaders, it became law just two weeks after it was first introduced, without any public hearings.

Just one day after Birmingham was the first city in the Deep South to enact a higher local minimum wage than the current poverty-level federal minimum of $7.25, and the city recently moved up its plan to implement a $10.10 minimum wage to last week as the state legislature rushed to block it.

tornado

Alabama has no minimum wage law of its own, the federal minimum wage automatically sets the wage floor in the state. Congress has failed to raise the federal minimum wage for the last seven years. Alabama is one of twenty-one states where the minimum wage is stuck at $7.25 per hour.

The storm then paralelled 4th Avenue North before lifting near the intersection of Dartmouth Avenue and 32nd Street South.

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The National Weather Service has also confirmed an EF-2 tornado hit Graysville, an EF-1 hit Kimberly, an EF-3 tornado hit the Simco and Welti communities in Cullman County, and two EF-3 tornadoes hit Lincoln and Limestone counties.

According to Stefkovich, it appears the tornado first touched down off of exit 1 near Bessemer, McCalla and McAdory.

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“We found the beginning point which is off of I-459 and we believe this path may continue to Helena and Western Shelby County,” he added.

According to Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, 12 homes were damaged overnight.

Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency director Jim Coker said firefighters responding to the area found four people injured. He said their conditions are unknown, but two were taken to a hospital.

Coker said some homes were damaged, but he was unsure how severely. Trees and power lines were also toppled.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jack Self told CBS affiliate WIAT there was moderate damage to homes in the Pocahontas Road area, including downed trees and power lines.

Self said emergency response teams were going house to house in the area, checking on people and clearing the roads for ambulances to come through.

He said power was out in the Dickey Springs Bessemer/McCalla area. Roads were blocked by debris.

Alabama Power spokeswoman Katie Bolton said there were 6,800 power outages statewide, with 3,300 in the Birmingham area.

The twister touched down near Interstate 459 and tracked close to the Bent Brook Golf Club. Fire crews report damage to vehicles and several trees down.

National Weather Service crews are working to determine the wind strength of a confirmed tornado that touched down in the McCalla area.

“What we do is look at the actual damage to determine how high the winds are and that’s what we’re in the process doing right now,” NWS Meteorologist Jim Stefkovich said.

According to Stefkovich, it appears the tornado first touched down off of exit 1 near Bessemer, McCalla and McAdory.

“We found the beginning point which is off of I-459 and we believe this path may continue to Helena and Western Shelby County,” he added.

According to Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, 12 homes were damaged overnight.

Authorities also say four people were transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.Other residents sustained minor injuries.

The McAdory Fire Department says the damage is along a four-mile stretch that goes from Loveless Park to Dickey Springs to Bent Brook.

The owner of J & J Grocery saw the storm when it rolled through.

“The wind got real heavy. didn’t really seem to be so bad, just a really bad storm, then cars started pulling up in the parking lot and people started jumping in the stores. seemed like it was a tornado,” she said. “They had just come through a tornado is what they thought.”

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