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Families grieve five lost to tornado

Kalvin Bowers of Ohatchee lost his sister, brother-in-law and niece to the tornado.

Kalvin Bowers surveying the damage done by the Thursday tornado that took three family members.

Kalvin Bowers stood on his Grayton Road South property in Ohatchee on Friday afternoon as family gathered to save what they could from what was their homes. 

In an instant, his sister, Barbara Harris, 69, her husband, Joe Wayne Harris, 74, and their 38-year-old daughter, Ebonique Harris, were taken from the family. 

Bowers, 52, said he received a call about the tornado while driving home from his Oxford auto detail shop.

“They said everything was gone. We had people missing,” Bowers said. “The faster I went, the longer it took.” 

The family had lived on the 8 acres since 1986, he said. He estimated that 13 or so family members lived in the five mobile homes, all of which were destroyed by the tornado. 

Throughout the morning Friday, family came to help gather what could be saved, pulling items from the debris. Trees and debris were scattered across the property. Bowers pointed to the only building still standing, a small shop, and said he may try to make it into a place to stay while he determines next steps. 

Bowers said his brother survived the storm, and was found in woods not far from his mobile home on the property. He and two other family members were being treated at hospitals Friday, Bowers said. 

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Asked what his next steps were, Bowers noted all the family helping him on the property and said “I’ve got to get these people where they need to be. 

“I’ve got to get the others buried,” he said. 

Bowers said his sister and brother-in-law were the center of their family. They were who everyone went to when they needed help, or to calm a dispute. 

“Church-going people,” he said of the couple and his niece. 

Two others lost their lives to the tornado in Calhoun County on Thursday. James William Geno, 71, died at his mobile home in Ohatchee. Emily Myra Wilborn, 71, died at her Wellington Home, according to news accounts. 

Utility crews lined both sides of U.S. 431 in Wellington Friday morning, working to clear downed power lines while others took chainsaws to downed trees and assessed the damage to homes in the area. 

People were clearing fallen trees from in front of Angel Grove Baptist Church in Jacksonville, where it appeared the tornado crossed over Alabama 204, leveling trees along as it went. 

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A large commercial building at Ohatchee Industrial Park was destroyed in the storm. Utility crews and heavy equipment operators worked to clear the area around the park on Alabama Highway 77, where across the highway Ragan Chapel United Methodist Church off of Ragan Chapel Road, was destroyed. The church’s caretaker, Josh Farmer, survived inside a hallway closet in the church, according to AL.com

The National Weather Service in Birmingham said preliminary results show the tornado traveled from near Helena to near Vandiver in Shelby County, which caused EF2 damage in Pelham and at least EF2 damage in Eagle Point, as well as EF2 damage in Ohatchee according to WBRC. An EF2 tornado can produce winds of between 111 and 135 mph.

Written By

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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