by John Brasher
This is the story of the Brent Tornado.
It is dedicated to the people of Brent, Centreville,
and all those affected in the many locations
along this storm’s long
path of destruction.
May 27, 1973 was a red letter day in the annals of Alabama severe weather events. A number of tornadoes touched down across north and central sections of the state that day. The largest and most violent of these would become known as the Brent Tornado. This storm had its beginning just northeast of Demopolis. It went on to cause damage in Greensboro, Brent, Centreville, Montevallo, Calera, Columbiana, Wilsonville, Childersburg, Alpine, and points between. The monster storm finally dissipated near Anniston, on the western slope of Mt. Cheaha. The tornado was on the ground an incredible 139 miles. The Brent Tornado was and remains the longest track tornado in Alabama recorded history. It is the sixth longest track tornado of record in U.S. history.
The hardest hit area was Brent, where the tornado caused upper level F4 damage, bordering on F5. According to the NOAA representative that conducted the storm survey, wind speed may well have surpassed the threshold of F5 strength in areas near the Brent Baptist Church.
At a certain point, the measurement of wind speed no longer matters. At a certain point destruction is total. That point was close at hand on the evening of May 27, 1973, in Brent, Alabama. Brent was almost wiped from the face of the earth.
At that time, a NOAA WSR-57 radar station was located on Alabama Hwy25, southwest of Brent, and just west of Highway 5. The designation of the station was Centreville Radar. Late that Sunday afternoon, NWS staff at the site detected a tornado forming in Demopolis. State Troopers reported sighting the storm to the Birmingham Forecast Office located at 11 West Oxmoor Road. Tornado warnings were issued up-stream. Centreville Radar itself would become a large part of the story when the tornado struck the facility, ripping away the roof and blowing the radar antenna from its tower. The familiar white dome that covered the antenna simply vanished.
I was a photographer/reporter for the Centreville Press at the time and I was at the radar site when the tornado struck.
My thanks to former publisher Jim Oakley, the current management and owners of the Centreville Press, and everyone that has, and continues to contribute to this site.
All photos and writing by John Brasher unless otherwise noted.
Re-use please credit https://brenttornado.wordpress.com/
Click Link Below For Brent Tornado track:
About the photo at the top of the pages:
This is the interior of the Brent Baptist Church. Services were being held here when the tornado struck. There was warning of the approaching storm shortly before its arrival and the congregation rushed into the basement. However, one man was killed when the roof and walls collapsed.