Lee County assesses damage after confirmed EF-1 tornadoes

LEE COUNTY, AL (WTVM) - East Alabama was hit hard by severe weather over the weekend.

On Monday, the National Weather Service confirmed an EF-1 tornado touched down in Opelika along 3rd Avenue on Sunday.

The tornado had a path three miles long, was on the ground for seven minutes, and produced winds up to 90 miles per hour.

Ellen Greene and her husband were in their home when the tornado hit, ripping off their roof and toppling trees all over their area of 3rd Avenue.

Thankfully, Ellen and her husband were not injured, and no injuries have been reported in a series of storms that hit over the weekend, including Smiths Station.
The National Weather Service confirms the tornado that hit Smiths Station High Schools baseball and softball facility was an EF-1 as well.

We spoke with coaches and players about their devastation and determination to rebuild.

"It's way worse in person that in looks on a photograph," said Smiths Station baseball coach Mike Ferry.

When Ferry saw Saturday's storm damage, he was devastated, but thankful.

"Facilities can be replaced, this can be fixed, but people can't, so it was a blessing it wasn't that way," Ferry said.

The school's baseball/softball facility is a source of pride for this community, built through years of fundraising, so it's tough to see it destroyed in a matter of seconds.

"All the boosters and parents and fundraiser who spent 10 years getting the facilities to where they were, just thought I was devastated for them, because they took a lot of pride in it as well," Ferry said.

What's left are mangled fences and bleachers, and baseball's locker room and indoor batting facility are heavily damaged.

The softball's indoor batting cages should be okay, but their locker room was disintegrated,

"We just got the locker room last year, we used to have to change in the bathrooms or our cars, we just painted it last week and we just got carpet down a few days ago and now it's gone," said Smiths Station High senior and pitcher Savannah Bussey.

"We hope all of it will be covered by insurance, we don't know for sure if it's all going to all work out," Ferry said.

The complex may be down, but the teams are far from out. The community is rallying behind them and Ferry says somehow they'll build it back better than before.
"We don't want to rush to get it ready to play on the 20th, by just getting something up," Ferry said. 'We want to take our time and do something these kids deserve."

"We all have a common broken heart right now so we are just going to be there for each other, I think it will build our team chemistry through the season," said Smiths Station High senior and softball player Gabie LaFranc.

"We will just have to pull together bring the facility back up to where we were and we will do it and not let it impact how we lay our season," Bussey.

Ferry is thankful other schools have offered their fields to Smiths Station High while they rebuild.

He's also grateful to volunteers who are ready to work, but it's too dangerous there now with scraps of metal and nails everywhere.

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