Centreville Radar was equipped with an automatic camera that captured the radar display at short intervals. Shown here is a print made directly from the NOAA filmstrip showing the tornado southwest of and heading toward the station. A few days after the storm, at NOAA’s request, I printed photos from each frame of the filmstrip in the darkroom of the Centreville Press. This is one of those photos. The red notations on this photo are added for clarity, courtesy of Ed Landry, a former radar operator at Centreville.
Illuminated only by a desk lamp and the green glow of the radar screen, Dale Black operates the controls at Centreville Radar. One end of the radar room was filled with the WSR-57 console shown here, the opposite end with a large map of Alabama. This photo was taken as Dale was investigating the storm that had developed to our southwest, near Demopolis. He then ploted the storm’s projected path on the map and stated that if “holds together It will pass right over us”. It did hold together.
Notations on storms were made on the radar screen with a grease pen.
Bob Coe was at the teletype sending information to West Oxmoor regarding another storm when the tornado struck us at Centreville Radar. Minutes after this photo was taken, we felt an abrupt and dramatic drop in atmospheric pressure, and within seconds,the fury of the storm as the tornado struck. Dale Black used a phone in this room, which somehow remained operational for a short time, to place a call to the Birmingham Weather Office telling them “We’ve been hit.”
The radar antenna was blown from the tower, landing about 20 feet from the room Dale Black and I had jumped into. The dome that covered the antenna had vanished.
This is the hallway inside the station. Dale, Bob, and I were standing here when the roof was torn away. The door directly ahead led to the reference and conference room. On the left was the door to the teletype room. On the right was the radar room. Behind and on the right was the office where we took refuge.
Over half of the weather station’s roof was peeled back and mangled.
This was the south-east corner of the weather station as seen minutes after the storm’s passing.
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Roof of the weather office as seen from the radar tower
Inside east end of the weather office