With tornadic activity possible locally today, area emergency officials say community storm shelters will be open, but residents should consider an alternative safety plan based on coronavirus concerns.
“The community shelters are already open, and as a reminder, the recommended 6-foot spacing for health due to COVID-19 cannot be used in the shelters,” Lawrence County EMA Director Johnny Cantrell posted to the agency’s Facebook page early Tuesday morning. “Keep in mind, you may want to bring a protective mask if you are in an above average at-risk category for your own well being.”
The state on Friday issued an emergency order prohibiting non-work gatherings of more than 25 people or of any size in which a consistent 6-foot distance cannot be maintained between people.
The National Weather Service in Huntsville said there is a threat of severe storms in the forecast from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. today. NWS issued a tornado watch for 11 counties in North Alabama, including Lawrence and Morgan.
“We could see hail and wind damage in the morning,” said NWS Meteorologist Laurel McCoy. “But the system moving through could be stronger in the afternoon and evening with gusty winds, hail and tornadoes. Stay weather aware and have a plan.”
Lawrence County Community Shelters include:
- Two shelters in Moulton: one at 14201 Court Street, across from the Moulton Senior Center, and one at 200 Almon Drive, behind Western Sirloin Steakhouse
- Mt. Hope: inside the Mt. Hope Senior Center, located at 3142 County Road 460
- Caddo: at Veterans Park, located at 6229 County Road 214 in Trinity
- Red Bank: inside Red Bank Park, located at 1933 County Road 314 in Town Creek
- Courtland: located at Roy Coffey Park at 3581 Jefferson Street
- Town Creek: at 1025 Wallace Street
- Hillsboro: at 11720 Main Street, south of the railroad tracks
- Speake: at 6619 County Road 81, behind the Speake Senior Site
- Hatton: inside Hatton’s Senior Center, located at 7044 Alabama Highway 101 in Town Creek
- Chalybeate: located on County Road 296, next door to the Chalybeate Fire Station
- Wren: at 11440 Alabama Highway 33 in Moulton, next to Pleasant Grove Baptist Church
- Five Points: at 7301 County Road 87 in Moulton, next to Speake Fire Station Number 2
- Loosier: at 3157 County Road 150 in Town Creek
Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling urged residents to seek shelter where they could in spite of COVID-19.
“The Alabama Department of Public Health says, at this time, your first priority should be to protect yourself from a tornado,” he said. “If a warning is issued for our area, you will be more likely to be affected by the tornado than the virus. Now is the time to review your inclement weather plan.”
Morgan County District 2 Commissioner Don Stisher said safe alternatives to a storm shelter should be explored.
“It’s going to be a tough call,” he said. “If I had to make a decision involving a life-or-death situation or possibly contracting the coronavirus, I’d seek safety in the shelter and take my chances. Do your homework and see if there is somewhere in the house that can provide some safety.”
No positive tests for COVID-19 had been reported in Lawrence County as of Monday, but Morgan reported one case Tuesday, Madison County had 21 confirmed cases and Limestone County had one. Cullman had two cases and Lauderdale County had three.
Testing collection kits became available at Lawrence Medical Center on Monday. LMC CEO Dean Griffin said it could take 4 to 7 days for test results to be returned from the state lab in Montgomery.
Lawrence and Limestone EMA offices said the community shelters would be open before the bad weather arrives and residents should use precautions.
McCoy said some parts of the Valley received up to 1½ inches of rain early Monday. She said the area should dry out some beginning Wednesday through Friday.
McCoy said Tuesday’s high should be about 76 degrees with Friday reaching 83.