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Twister slams same area hit by killer storm in '11

By Jay Reeves

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, March 3 2012 4:21 p.m. MST

Family and friends begin the task of clean-up after a tornado left a path of destruction in the Harvest area on the same path that an F5 tornado left destruction on April 27, 2011 on Saturday, March 3, 2012, in Athens, Ala. Emergency crews desperately searched for survivors Saturday after a violent wave of Midwest and Southern storms flattened some rural communities and left behind a trail of destruction: shredded homes, downed power lines and streets littered with tossed cars.

Butch Dill, Associated Press

HARVEST, Ala. — Cody Stewart is done owning a home for a little while. He has lost his house to tornadoes twice in 10 months.

A killer twister wiped out his neighborhood in the epic Alabama storms April 27, causing Stewart $40,000 worth of damage that forced him to temporarily move in with his parents. In his house for less than two months with repairs still incomplete, another tornado hit again Friday, ripping off the roof, slinging it into the backyard and leaving the walls bowed outward.

This time, the damage is beyond repair.

"I kind of expected there to be more storms again this year, but you never expect it to hit the same place twice," Stewart said Saturday as he stood in what remains of his wood-frame home. "I think I'm going to live in an apartment awhile. I'm not superstitious, but it just kind of seems there's a path here and I don't want to be in it again, and I hope other people make the same choice."

While scattered damage was reported elsewhere, the worst destruction was in Limestone and Madison counties, where 190 homes were damaged or destroyed.

The damage included nearly every house in Stewart's neighborhood on Yarbrough Road, located in the Tennessee Valley about 15 miles northwest of Huntsville.

The storms were not as deadly in Alabama this time. Nearly 200 miles south of Harvest, which is near the Tennessee state line, one person was killed in the Tallapoosa County community of Jackson's Gap. Last year, twisters cut a wide path of destruction across the region, killing about 250 people statewide, including at least two near where Stewart lived.

Dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed a year ago in his neighborhood, which was left looking like logging crews had come through because all of the trees were snapped and tossed to the ground.

The twister Friday was smaller and didn't cause any serious injuries, but it hit homes where people were still recovering.

Across the street from Stewart, Jason Kerr and his wife lost their home to the April 27 twister but weren't injured. Kerr had just finished demolishing the house, rebuilding the garage and hauling in $5,000 worth of dirt for a new foundation when the latest storm stuck. Their brand new garage was damaged, and they might not be able to repair it.

Kerr dreads again dealing with insurance companies that he said seem to pinch every dollar.

"It makes it hard for the people on the ground who have lost everything," he said. "It's a difficult time for everybody."

That includes James and Judy Hodges, who live up the street on the corner. They just finished $65,000 in repairs to their home and moved back in; now the house looks it was hit with a giant ax that flayed open the roof and ripped off the front of the structure.

"Time to rebuild again," she said as church volunteers helped clear away debris and pick up belongings scattered through the yard.

Longtime residents talk about the 1974 tornado outbreak that wiped out hundreds of homes, killed nearly 90 people and injured about 950 people in north Alabama. Stewart remembers a twister in the early '90s, when he was still a boy. The repeated bashings have left people feeling short on luck, at the very least.

As Stewart left home Friday to drive to work at a tech company in Huntsville, something felt eerie. Forecasters had been warning of the chance of severe weather for days, and he said it was too warm for early March; the sky looked too gray.

"It was just that sick feeling in your stomach," he said. "It was like, 'It feels familiar.'"

Now, with Yarbrough Road hit twice in such a short period, Stewart said nothing will ever be the same there.

"It's time to move on," he said.

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