Sixty-eight years ago Miss Ann Elizabeth Fowler Hodges was napping on her sofa when a meteorite the size of a grapefruit crashed through her ceiling and struck her on the side.
She was severely injured. She could walk, but not without shouting unchristian expletives with each step.
This happened outside Sylacauga, Alabama. The year was 1954. Reportedly, witnesses from three states saw a streak of fire in the sky and heard loud booms. Later that afternoon, when Ann’s husband, Eugene, got home from work he asked how her day had gone. She told him there had been, quote, “a little excitement.”
“A little excitement” is exactly how I would describe living in Alabama. Especially when it comes to things careening from the sky.
Because in the two weeks I’ve been an official resident of the Yellowhammer State, it has already snowed, sleeted, flooded, hailed, and today they’re calling for tornadoes. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow a meteor the size of Lebron James crashed through my roof, followed by a category-three hurricane.
This morning, I awoke to read my newspaper amidst a Biblical downpour. The first news headline I read said: “Tornadoes, damaging winds, and hail will all be possible today.”
It was like the fortune cookie from hell.
All this weather business got me thinking. What kind of weather am I to expect now that we’re living in Alabama? To learn more about this pressing issue, I contacted one of my friends in town who is a local weather buff.
My friend, Bucky, is one of those guys who has high-tech meteorological equipment mounted on his roof and knows everything about weather. He carries a picture of James Spann in his wallet.
“Alabama is unusual, meteorologically,” said Bucky. “It’s one of the only states with both a spring and autumn tornado season.”
Simply put, Alabama has a reputation for bizarre weather. If hurricanes, tornadoes, or flash floods don’t get you, an earthquake will.
Yes. Earthquakes. There have been 400 major earthquakes recorded in the Twenty-Second State since the late 1800s. There have been 51 earthquakes within the LAST TWO YEARS ALONE.
The largest earthquake in Alabamian history, the Irondale “quake” of 1916, occurred just five miles up the road from my front door. Geologists estimate that it was a 5.1 on the Richter Scale. Many geologists are eagerly awaiting for the sequel any day now, and have calculated that the fault line probably runs just beneath my guest bathroom.
And if that doesn’t scare you, let’s talk about meteorites again. Remember the story of the lady napping on her sofa? That’s nothing.
Few events in Alabama history are more vivid than the leonid meteor shower of 1833 when approximately 150,000 meteors the size of Chevy Caprices crashed toward Earth, and in the words of one Alabamian farmer, “set the sky on fire.”
This historic event which inspired poems, novels, the famous song, “Stars Fell on Alabama,” is not at all uncommon. There have been lots of meteorites found in Alabama, fresh from the Final Frontier.
“But statistically,” Bucky added, “you’re more likely to die by tornadoes in Alabama.”
Alabama’s unsavory history with tornadoes goes back to 1884, when one of the biggest tornado outbreaks recorded in U.S. history occurred, spawning 37 tornadoes in only a few hours. Experts didn’t think this tragedy could ever be outdone, but—big surprise—it was.
In 1908, there was another outbreak of approximately 50 confirmed tornadoes in Alabama. And again, in 2011, a “super outbreak” storm system produced nearly 270 tornados across the U.S., and claimed 238 lives of Alabamians in only one day.
The fact is, last year Alabama had the second-largest percentage increase in tornado frequency. Alabama also currently ranks second in the nation for tornadoes by square mile of land, trailing Mississippi.
“If you’re looking for screwed-up weather,” said Bucky, “this is definitely your state.”
And I know he’s telling the truth because the weather in Birmingham has officially been off its meds lately.
On Saturday morning, for example, I awoke to half an inch of snow on our driveway. The next day it was 74 degrees and the neighborhood kids were eating red-white-and-blue popsicles, playing in the sprinklers.
Three days later I was caught in a Genesis-style downpour while running errands downtown. I was driving home when a waterfall slammed into my truck like the Splash Mountain ride at Disney World.
When I arrived at an underpass near 21 Street South, I was greeted by a long line of standstill traffic. A tea-colored river was rushing across the highway, submerging cars and trucks, leaving people to wade across chest-deep whitewater currents. It was horrifying.
Meantime, many Good Samaritans were heroically sprinting from their vehicles, rushing toward victims to helpfully shoot iPhone video footage.
What I want to know is, what comes next? In only seven days I’ve seen all four seasons. Tomorrow there could be a blizzard. The next day could feature a seismic event, a sinkhole, or possibly, we can’t rule this out, a plague of frogs and locusts. Either way, it’s great to be in Alabama.
Remind me never to nap on my sofa without wearing a helmet.
oldlibrariansshelf - March 19, 2022 7:51 am
I thought about your former home, Sean, when I heard there was tornado damage this week in the panhandle of Florida. I’m so close to your Alabama state line that I cannot receive any Tennessee television stations, but that works for me because Alabama weather is basically my weather, too! Several small tornadoes skipped across this 24 acres of wooded hills in 2003. An ice storm about ten years prior had already snapped Cedar tree tops. The tornadoes ripped some hardwood trees right up out of the ground, lifted a heavy vintage glider from the porch, and split a beautiful aging American Beech in two. Fortunately for us we had not yet moved to the property. Just sit back and praise God for the variety.
Nana - March 19, 2022 9:37 am
Sean, I’m a little concerned for your safety in Bham . . . when James Spann predicts flash floods, STAY HOME! If you want good ribs, go to Full Moon, Jim n Nicks, Saw’s, or any other fine bbq restaurant, but please stay away from the popup gas station joints!! I’m saying this because I care about you!
Elgin Carver - March 19, 2022 10:38 am
The meteorite you reference is on display in the geology building at the University Of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, or at least was the last time I attended classes lo these many years ago.
Linda Howington - March 19, 2022 11:02 am
Living here changes you into a survivor, because you never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at you. You learn to keep a Go-Bag packed with essentials (dog food) so you can grab it and go if necessary. If you don’t know how to swim, learn — or at least get floaties. If you don’t have a kerosene heater and a battery-operated can, get them.You keep fresh batteries for your flashlight, your gas tank full, and your heart right with God. And stay in touch with James Spann. You can gauge how bad the situation is by how he’s dressed. If he ever takes off his suit coat and rolls up his sleeves, be ready to either dive into the bathtub or evacuate up I-59.
Lin - March 19, 2022 11:19 am
I think you should have talked to Bucky before you moved there! Just kidding of course.
Jeanette - March 19, 2022 11:43 am
When you said that you were moving there, the 1st thing I thought about was tornadoes. I guess you and Jamie needed something to take your minds off of the past year. Yeah! You found it!
Te - March 19, 2022 12:08 pm
If you had moved further north, say Gadsden or Huntsville, you would experience less. I lived in Huntsville growing up, we had epic snows (10 inches one year and out of school for a week), record heat waves (110F), rarely a tornado, but we got shaking of earthquakes from B’ham –of course we didn’t pay much attention to the earthquakes because the sensation was akin to what we got when they tested the engines at the Base. We ignored all that. You’d have thought we were living in Tennessee!
Cheryl Newsome - March 19, 2022 12:25 pm
I hate the weather here in Alabama, but I guess what you can’t change you just have to endure. We get it from all sides–warm air from the Gulf constantly clashing with cold air from the north…humidity that will wilt you like old lettuce…summer heat that will make you feel like a human deep fried hush puppy. I’ve lived thorough one tornado and I’m officially terrified of them. Oh, and watch the weather next week–storms predicted for Tuesday. *sigh*
Paul McCutchen - March 19, 2022 12:26 pm
It’s probably the pollen. I am guessing the state of Alabama gets hay fever like everybody else but it sneezes a lot bigger that people. That is my theory but it could be the hay fever medicine I am on.
Glenda Busby-Fowler Hinkle - March 19, 2022 12:29 pm
Enjoy your columns SO MUCH! I live just outside Sylacauga on Lay Lake. You mention the meteorite incident. But, wait, there’s MORE!! We also have sink holes galore around the white marble 38 mile long line that are active (and sinking). Also, you can’t ignore “Gravity Hill”……we entertain our guests by taking them to Gravity Hill, put the car in neutral and coast UP the road……..Lots of fun things to see and do in Sylacauga!!
Val - March 19, 2022 12:55 pm
Welcome to the ‘ham. Bless your heart. And might I mention if you haven’t already experienced allergy season and the pollen you will. Probably tomorrow.
Jean - March 19, 2022 12:58 pm
Basically our weather in Tn too. Most of the southern states are that way. You lived around the Gulf coast…and hurricanes are very destructive and you can count on them hitting the coast there. If that didn’t scare you all those years….this weather is nothing!
Jan - March 19, 2022 1:18 pm
Welcome to Alabama! You will get used to our unique way of life!
P Deas - March 19, 2022 1:21 pm
Perhaps y’all need to consider building a storm shelter if you don’t have a basement in your new home. Wait till Summer if you think Florida is hot and humid you ain’t seen nothing yet. Good Luck and thanks for making us laugh in the troubling times!!!
Don+Gardner,+Jr - March 19, 2022 1:28 pm
As a lifelong resident of the great state of Alabama, let me just say “Welcome to the Promised Land.”
Barbara Brannon - March 19, 2022 1:45 pm
There’s a saying in Tennessee (where I’m from), “If you don’t like the weather today, stick around – tomorrow will be different”!
Susie - March 19, 2022 5:16 pm
Funny thing, Barbara. They say that in Missouri, too. Lol….and probably everywhere else. Huh.
Susie - March 19, 2022 5:22 pm
Oh, and…..instead of “tomorrow will be different”, here in Missouri, it’s “wait 5 minutes!” Lol!
Ruth Mitchell - March 19, 2022 2:19 pm
Brace yourself. We are expected to have another round of tornadoes on Tuesday, and you will definitely need to keep your television on non-stop tuned to your favorite weather person. Until then, work on your tan in your backyard!
Billie Padgett - March 19, 2022 2:23 pm
I think the call to Bucky.was a little late. Just my North Florida Panhandle opinion 🥴
Christa - March 19, 2022 2:28 pm
Welcome to Birmingham! We have seasons. We have them all! As long as you are following James Spann on all social media venues you’re going to be safe. This man is our national Treasure. He’s been on the air saving others while his own home was being hit by a tornado. Prayers, a good shelter, helmet and necessities are all you need to survive our seasons. You’ll soon enjoy many other reasons to be living in Alabama and Love it!
Penn Wells - March 19, 2022 2:30 pm
Patricia Gibson - March 19, 2022 2:32 pm
Like that a lot in Mississippi and Georgia too!
Susan H Poole - March 19, 2022 3:06 pm
Besides a helmet, your napping gear should also include a raincoat, umbrella, snow shoes, and your trusty cellphone to record it all🤯
Emily - March 19, 2022 4:18 pm
I always cross my fingers and say a prayer when I hear the weatherman say “i-65 corridor” seems Tuscaloosa and the corridor are tornado favorites. Having a good shelter is imperative. I have been in tornado alley my whole life though Alabama is the only place I’ve lived where most folks don’t have basements….super happy to have an underground cellar.
Charlotte Virginia McCraw - March 19, 2022 4:35 pm
Reading Sean of the South is most definitely, without a doubt, the most uplifting way to start my day. I love hugs and humor . . and, Sean, you have got the humor part down pat — humor that evokes vivid images of times and events, both past and present; humor that oftentimes touches my heart.
Sue Adams - March 19, 2022 4:35 pm
we have the same weather in north Texas. This week multiple grass fires due to high winds , hail and sleet, clear skies and 80 degrees with heavy rains and tornadoes this coming Monday.
Glynda Martin Searels - March 19, 2022 4:55 pm
Right on!!!. I understand this fully. Don’t live in Alabama, but close enough in NW Georgia. Yes I have seen snow on buttercups in the morning, & be in swimming pool by 3pm. It is a big decision to know what clothes to wear when you leave home. You try to decide between an overcoat or shorts & flipflops. No matter which you decide on, sometime in the following 12 hours, you will be sweating or your toes will be frostbitten. The trunk of your car should should contain these items: blanket, handwarmers, snow shoes, extra jacket, umbrella, raincoat, beach clothes, swimsuit, sweatband, jug water & beef jerky. I love Alabama, Georgia. God bless America.
Linda Moon - March 19, 2022 5:01 pm
Four Seasons…that’s one reason I like Alabama, but not all four of them in a seven-day Spann (yuk yuk). It’s great to have you here, so be sure to protect that head of yours that’s so full of stories and stuff!
Susie - March 19, 2022 5:26 pm
Yes, Linda. That’s why we like Missouri, too. We get all four seasons. Just when ya think ya can’t take anymore of whatever, ya get a new season. Love it. But keep expecting the weather to keep getting more weird and dangerous…..since so many are in denial about climate change. SO SAD.
BEX - March 19, 2022 5:55 pm
WELCOME TO ALABAMA! God bless!
MAM - March 19, 2022 7:10 pm
I don’t think you’ll find anywhere on this Earth that doesn’t have some kind of extreme weather. Here in SW New Mexico, we’re getting into severe allergy season when the junipers and pines send out CLOUDS of pollen. Ah-choo! We once in a while have a snow storm that shuts the schools for a day until it melts off the next day. Never heard of a tornado here, but we have wild winds right now gusts up to 40 or 50 mph – my least favorite time of year. Little to no humidity, but when it rains it can pour. A flood took out the Main Street of our little town more than 100 years ago. Now it’s called the Big Ditch. We had a tiny earthquake several years ago, but I slept through it. Having grown up near the coast of Texas, I experienced several hurricanes. And once in Denver the kids’ school was locked down due to close tornadoes. Bloom where you’re planted and enjoy the weather that comes with it.
Kathy Coxwell - March 19, 2022 7:48 pm
My daughter is a VP at Bayer Properties very close to 21st. She sent me a video of the raging waters just outside her office window. Incredible! Even worse, the building was flooded, and the sump pump failed to kick in!
Jenny Young - March 19, 2022 8:07 pm
Have you added a tornado shelter yet?
Chris Spencer - March 19, 2022 8:35 pm
Sean, you and Jamie are learning what all native Alabamians have known our entire lives.
And that is that if you don’t like today’s weather, wait 2-3 hours and it will change.
On a more serious note, I hope you and Jamie have acquired helmets and anything else that James Spann says you need in the event of a tornado. They can be life savers, but I pray that yall never have to learn that firsthand.
Pat - March 19, 2022 10:08 pm
Giant spiders are the next plague. It’s on the internet so it must be true.
Susie - March 20, 2022 3:27 pm
Pat, let’s hope your second sentence was typed with tongue-in-cheek.
Steve McCaleb - March 20, 2022 12:44 am
Not only is the weather a hoot…you now live in a state where after you croak you can have your cremated ashes shipped to some good old boys south of Montgomery who will pack your remains into several 12 gauge shells and ship you back home.The scope of what your drunken relatives can do with you from that point is mind boggling. Oh yes, you now live in one of the few states where Putin is a verb…..ENJOY
Susie - March 20, 2022 3:33 pm
Yep, Steve, let’s hope that “good ole boy” kind of mind-set doesn’t rub off too much on our Sean, who has a heart of gold.
Dolores Fort - March 20, 2022 1:07 am
Welcome to Alabama, Sea! Glad you came!
Cindy Livings - March 20, 2022 2:46 am
Just today, while visiting beautiful, downtown Wetumpka, AL, I saw a sign that read, “I’m not saying Alabama weather is crazy, but…. I just watched a mosquito wearing a sweater snort a line of pollen off my car.”
Slim picker - March 20, 2022 2:47 am
Sean, sounds like your next event could be the apacalypse, or maybe the rapture.
Happy Home - March 20, 2022 11:57 am
What made the national news yesterday about my home state was the remarkably bad Alabama state constitution with its enshrined elitism. I have not seen you address racism directly in your writing – much more subtle with a focus on the good, that in your eternal optimism, will overcome. I hope you are right.
Susie - March 20, 2022 3:22 pm
Yes, Happy Home, important issues of the day are NOT addressed in this form. I find it very sad that the fate of our planet is seen thru “political eyes”, as opposed to a world emergency. THAT”S going to get us in the end, I’m afraid. So sad for all your descendants, people!
Susie - March 20, 2022 3:46 pm
I was addressing/agreeing with your comment on enshrined elitism/racism, along with the denial of the climate emergency. This country is notorious for putting too much faith in the diets, as opposed to people actions toward assuring our survival. That’s a cop-out and pure laziness, in my view. Mass delusion.
Susie - March 20, 2022 3:50 pm
That last post of mine….the word “diet”….was supposed to be “deity”.
Susie - March 20, 2022 3:57 pm
You can pray to god all you want, people, but ROW TOWARD SHORE, for all our sakes.
CELIA E. HARBIN - March 20, 2022 6:22 pm
Welcome to Alabama!
Margaret Jackson - March 20, 2022 11:08 pm
You have moved to the Twilight Zone, weatherwise!! Br prepared for anything. Kerp your weather radio on & have James Spann on your tv!!! If he takes off his coat, get in your safe place!!!
Have you heard of the Werumpka impact crater?
A meteror, not quite as big as the one that killed the dinosaurs hit Alabama waaaaay back. It affects the geology of the area around Wetumpka.
EncyclopediaofAlabama.org has a good article about it. You will also find all sorts of info on Alabama.
Matthew H Iskra - March 21, 2022 3:07 am
Living in Sacramento, CA, I don’t really have weather. I have climate. Hot and dry summers, foggy and cool winters. Occasional gusting winds to rustle the palm trees. Rain is polite, almost apologetic that it is happening at all in the big valley instead of the Sierra Madres.
Having lived in St. Louis a number of years, I do miss the drama of the weather but not peeling off ice from my car nor 90/90 days (90F, 90% humidity). Having lived in Mobile, AL, I have been through a few downpours where I had trouble breathing just for the sheer amount of rain in the air.
Karen Holderman - March 21, 2022 6:46 pm
I think you need a helmet and the rest of the NFL gear when sleeping. You could nap in the bathtub. That is where we are supposed to go in Chesapeake if there is a tornado. I am not sure how safe that is.
Kathy R RussellRenee Russell - March 25, 2022 2:35 am
Our first year in Alabama it was a drought, then floods every year since. One storm was so bad it rained a few huge crawfish in our yard. Never seen that before!
Pam Yarbrough - March 26, 2022 1:23 pm
I would suggest you purchase a weather radio, and keep it charged up and plugged in. You can go to sleep assured that it will give a loud warning if anything is coming your way. Don’t go to bed at night without a full tank of gas. Make sure your cell phone is charged up, and that you have a power cord and a car charger in your truck. And you should have a pair of those fold up ponchos in the glove compartment along with a super powered military flashlight. An emergency bag and a 6 pack of electrolyte water and a box of protein bars should already be in your car so you can dive into the driver’s seat and take off! But, remember to have some ready cash on hand, cause you can’t use your credit card at the gas station (to purchase gas and/or snacks) if the power inside the gas station is out. Also, maybe have a pair of boots for each of you in case you have to get out and walk cause a tree is down across the road. But if you take those few precautions I mentioned (which even we Northerners have to deal with), you should be fine!
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - March 27, 2022 11:20 pm