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Alabama tornadoes kill 2, hurt 100 in too familiar path of destruction

Knowing this community's history of tornadoes, Jhan Powers gets nervous anytime violent weather rolls in. While her house was spared this time, a tornado demolished nearby mobile homes -- all of which were just a short drive from a path of destruction cut just last year by a deadly twister.

At least two tornadoes roared across the heart of Alabama on Monday, killing two people and injuring more than 100 others during the middle of the night. More than 200 homes were destroyed, the Red Cross said, and just as many houses were heavily damaged.

The storm awoke families, and many huddled together as winds howled outside. After the storms passed, rescue teams had to go door-to-door in some places, calling out to residents.

The unincorporated community of Oak Grove was hit hard in April and again Monday, though officials said none of the same neighborhoods was struck twice.

"I would really like to never see another tornado again," Powers said as neighbors sorted through the remnants of their home. "When you see this destruction, how can you not take it seriously?"

The area near Birmingham has a history of being a tornado alley going back decades. In April, about 20 people were killed in Jefferson County, most of them close to Oak Grove.

Powers' brother was injured in April 1998 when a tornado killed 34 people, injured 260 and destroyed Oak Grove High School. The storm left barren what was once a heavily wooded section of the county.

In a sign the state has become all too familiar with severe weather, officials had to reschedule a meeting Monday to receive a report on their response to the spring twisters.

Retiree Mary Roberts covered her mouth with her hand and grew misty-eyed describing what happened within sight of her mobile home on Toadvine Cemetery Road in Oak Grove.

Just across the street, a twister ripped apart Amber and Russ Butler' trailer, which was scattered across a pasture. The couple took cover in a relative's brick home, and they were not injured.

Further down the road, Roberts' sister, Janice Sims, lost her husband Bobby and her home.

"They were in a double-wide. They have a camper buried that they use to get down in during storms, but it happened so quick they couldn't get to it," she said.

Laurie Gibbs and her husband awoke to the screaming winds and went downstairs to check on their two teenage sons. A neighbor's pine tree crashed into the back of their home within moments, punching a hole in the roof, and each of their three cars was smashed by fallen oak trees.

After grabbing buckets to catch the rainwater spilling into the house, Gibbs opened the front door and looked toward the Georgebrook subdivision of brick homes across the street.

"I could see power lines down, but it was dark and raining so hard I couldn't see much else," she said. "After a few minutes, I could tell there were houses missing."