Wednesday marked 45 years since 1974 tornado outbreak


Let's clean out the notebook ... 

• It almost escaped us, but Wednesday was such a nice, sunny day at lunch. But then I came back to the office and I thought April 3 sounded so familiar. Than 1974 hit me.

It was a Wednesday night on April 3, 1974, when the tornadoes came through this area, devastating areas such as Jasper and Guin. 

Naturally, growing up, I was 7 miles from Guin, so that made an impression on me at age 11. For the rest of my life, the idea of taking cover during tornadoes became an urgent matter. It was my War of the Worlds, sitting in a dark hallway with one light and the large Sears photograph/radio furniture piece blaring Carl Sanders on WAPI Radio, telling about how this Guin, Yampertown (now Twin), and Jasper had been hit. 

A total of 25 people died and 250 were injured in Guin after the storm hit at 9:04 p.m., and that town was leveled, and getting a fair degree of notoriety for years. 

Naturally, we drove to Jasper in time to see the damage, and it was extensive downtown due to the tornado that hit at 7:58 p.m. I remember the damage to the courthouse and the stores around 19th Street. I've heard stories about how records were blown out of the courthouse and how it was damaged in the course of the storm. I still look up to see the old clock on the courthouse, and find it strange to see some emblem covering up where it had been. 

In fact, at least eight tornadoes hit Alabama that day. Tornadoes broke out throughout the country, in a major super outbreak. Xenia, Ohio, lost the most people that day, at 33 deaths. 

It seems like 45 years used to be a long time, once upon a time. Now, 45 years have passed and it seems like yesterday. It was a very hard, sad yesterday, full of recovery, rebuilding, death, grief and outreach. Those who lived through it will never forget it, and many times wish they could. 

• Quoting Marion County Sheriff Kevin Williams, the Journal Record in Hamilton gave more details about the death of missing Carbon Hill man Ronald Gene Humbers, 52. He was discovered about 30 yards off Alabama State Highway 233 in a pine thicket near Marion County Road 46. He was discovered at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 24, after a missing persons report was filed Jan. 25. Forensics in Huntsville identified the body through documents found in clothing at the scene. Williams said he visited a female acquaintance  on Marion County Road 162 in Brilliant during the first week in January for a couple of days and decided to walk back to Carbon Hill. He didn't own a vehicle and walked everywhere he went, but, as we've reported, he did suffer from mental illness and didn't have his medication. No foul play is suspected and no blunt force trauma was detected. 

• I had lunch Wednesday with Justin Wood, the student and family pastor of First Baptist Church of Jasper, who is a pretty cool guy. He loves restaurants, and so naturally he has loved sampling across Jasper since being hired last August. The one we went to the other day, he was still trying new items, and was fascinated how the downtown area has developed. Many people coming in from outside the city are interested about how Jasper's downtown turned around. 

• By the way, we are beginning to hear about Good Friday services planned. First Baptist in Jasper will hold one at 6:30 p.m. First Baptist in Carbon Hill will hold services through the day at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

• Just to repeat, I made a stupid mistake the other day for some reason in discussing election dates coming up in 2020. The municipal elections in 2020 will be on Tuesday, Aug. 25, not on Aug. 27.  It is on the Secretary of State's website, as a source.

On the other hand, it is also amazing that the qualifying for next spring's primary is in November of this year, although the military personnel voting somewhat dictates that now. But it means that candidates have to start thinking of financing the planning pretty soon, and they sure better start making decisions. 

• You may have noticed we didn't do a Facebook live stream of the Walker County Commission on Monday. We have some equipment ordered and we are still checking out some technical aspects, but we are very much still working on the matter to start it hopefully the next meeting or so. I think the younger staff has come behind this and are going to help the old man out, to my relief. 

• I should say that I'm impressed with our newest hire at the Daily Mountain Eagle, Jeffery Winborne, who is will be doing several duties for us. He has been doing some sports in the past, but he is already impressing me with his writing. He will also be working in concert with other staff members to help us find ways to explore better ways to use the internet and social media. He has a great work ethic, curiosity and a sense of teamwork, so I think he will be a great asset for us. 

• To show you what we deal with, the Associated Press has come out with changes to the stylebook that newspaper writers try to adhere to, although they are being criticized for many too many changes now on an annual basis. After many, many years of saying 5 percent, for example, they now want us to say 5%. That's one, but there is a longer list every year, and we have to get used to them. I have a feeling newspapers who have other problems to deal with may have their own company style guide rather than try to keep up with the AP. 

• If I seem like I am going half speed at the moment, there may be some truth to it. The allergies (I think it is oak for me) hit with a vengeance over the weekend. I have  had a shot and started meds, but I am still miserable. Many of us are. I have not had much in terms of allergies in recent years, but this one has been rough.