On April 27, 2011, more than 100 tornadoes touched down in Alabama, killing more than 200 people in their cataclysmic wake.
“I had a strange feeling that morning that something would happen,” said Birmingham resident Randy Donaldson. “I spent the night before in the storm cellar, and when I headed to work, I noticed all the trees were down.
“That morning was mainly F1 and F2 tornadoes, but later in the day F4 and F5s were coming down and staying on the ground for miles at a time.
“There was 360-degree devastation. Houses looked like popsicle sticks. By the time it was through two-thirds of the state had tornado damage.”
Donaldson works for Alagasco, natural gas utility company. He gave a presentation at the Energy Worldnet Inc., Annual Conference and Expo that was held Tuesday and Wednesday at the Decatur Civic Center.
He spoke to people in the natural gas industry on how his company responded in the wake of such a titanic disaster.
While North Texans hope to never deal with tornadoes on that scale, Donaldson’s experience stands to benefit Texans in Tornado Alley.
“Imagine if the Square here in Decatur was destroyed,” Donaldson said. “It was like that everywhere. Our guys were responding all over to shut off utilities and to replace damaged and destroyed meters.
“They heard people screaming, trapped in their houses. Neighbors were killed. Gas was blowing everywhere.”
The gas lines underground were fine, but thousands of meters were damaged or destroyed by the storms.
He said they learned a lot on how to respond to a problem of such magnitude. Technology and GPS mapping helped a lot.
They’ve since installed computers in every truck. They have started chainsaw safety training because they needed them to get anywhere.
And having a close relationship with fire and police personnel was vital to gain access to affected areas.
The event brought in a host of vendors and experts to the civic center.