Clean-up begins after tornado in Autauga County

Governor Robert Bentley went to Autauga County to tour the damage from an apparent EF-3 tornado.  He spent time with those affected by the storms and relatives of those who were killed.

Henley Hollon can look one way and see his church heavily damaged by the tornado.

He can look the other way and know that the two trailers where his relatives lived have been torn to pieces.

"We looked out back and saw all the damage back there and we came out front and went down here to see about my brother and them, the fire chief was already out here searching for them," Hollon said.  "I couldn't realize it both trailers were gone, rolled out there into the hill.  I knew that it was bad."

His brother, 69 year old Willard Hollon, his nephew 41 year old Steve Hollon,  and his niece 38 year-old Cheryl Hollon Mitchell were all killed by the tornado.  Henley Hollon said his nephew had just retired to the area, after a career in the Air Force.

Hollon was one of the many people in this community comforted by Governor Bentley as he toured the devastation.

"When you're in a mobile home, like many of these were, it makes it very difficult," Gov. Bentley said.  "And the survival rate is not very high. It's sad to see that type of destruction."

It was destruction that spread to Boone's Chapel Baptist Church.   It had been a landmark here for more than 100 years.  The tornado tore off the roof, but left most of the pews intact.   Pastor Mike Johnson recently became head of the church.

"Tomorrow, it's another day and gives us another day and God gives us an opportunity to rebuild," Johnson said.

The tornado underscored how tightly knit the Boone's Chapel Community has become over the years.  Chad Underwood lives just yards away from the church, and he's the youth pastor there.  He rushed his family to safety as the storm passed.  More devastating is the loss of three friends who lived close by.

"I'm constantly myself what can I do to justify my life," Underwood said.  "Why did God decide to spare me and what can I do to serve him greater."

Henley Hollon takes solace in the fact that so many of his fellow church members are giving him their support.

"People have been here off and on all day wanting to know if there's anything I can do, and we're sorry and we're praying for you," Hollon said.   "You don't realize how many people care until something happens."

Boone's Chapel will hold Sunday services at Marbury High School at 11 am.  Autauga County EMA officials ask you call 361-3759 to report the damage.

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