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Storm Survey from the Birmingham National Weather Service:
“Oak Grove Tornado, Jefferson County
The second tornado produced by the supercell thunderstorm is the most significant tornado to impact Alabama since 1977. It first touched down in eastern Tuscaloosa County at 7:42 pm CDT just east of the Warrior River and moved into Jefferson County at approximately 7:50 pm CDT.
Aerial surveys conducted by the National Weather Service with the help of the Alabama State Troopers Aviation Unit and the Civil Air Patrol determined that the tornado that ripped across west Jefferson County Wednesday night, April 8 th was an F5 tornado, the most violent tornado that occurs. F5 tornadoes have winds in excess of 260 miles per hour. The F5 tornado is highest rating for the most violent tornado. The Fujita Scale runs from F0 for the weakest to F5 for the most intense.
The tornado track was approximately 30.6 miles long and at it’s widest point was half a mile wide. After first touching down on the east side of the Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County, the tornado crossed into Jefferson County at 7:52 pm moving just south of the town of Scrap, just inside Jefferson County. It traveled east-northeast impacting Oak Grove, Concord, Pleasant Grove, Edgewater, McDonald’s Chapel areas before ending in Pratt City. The storm reached it’s strongest intensity producing F5 damage in the Concord area and the McDonalds Chapel/Edgewater area.
Interestingly, the tornado was on a trajectory that if it had stayed on the ground for an additional two or three miles the high rises in downtown Birmingham would have been affected; four more miles and the Birmingham Airport would have seen the destruction as well.
The latest death toll with this storm was 32, with more than 250 injuries. More than 1000 homes were destroyed and more than 900 homes with significant damage. This death toll places this tornado as the seventh deadliest tornado in Alabama, moving one ahead of a tornado which produced 31 deaths on March 21 st, 1932.”
For more info on the Tornado outbreak on April 8, 1998 Visit the NWS Birmingham page