LAKE MARTIN, AL (WSFA) – On the six month anniversary of the April 27th Tornado Super Outbreak, some memories are just as fresh as they were on that dreadful night. David Woodall lost his mother and aunt when an EF-4 tornado reshaped the landscape of Lake Martin, forever changing his life.
The EF-4 tornado ripped through parts of Elmore and Tallapoosa Counties on that Wednesday evening, taking the lives of two of David's closest family members who were taking shelter in a cabin. This tornado claimed five additional lives and caused over two dozen more to be injured.
Investigators believe winds in this tornado reached 170 mph along a 44 mile path. The twister spared little in its path...sweeping up everything from trees to full size vehicles. The damage was nothing less than extensive.
Earlier in the day, David Woodall was chasing other tornadoes in north-central Alabama. Monitoring radar, he made the call to his wife and daughter in Wetumpka to let them know a tornado was passing far enough to the north of their home. He knew the tornado was now aiming for his family's cabin at the lake, where his mother and aunt were sitting out the storms all day.
David explains, "[I] had seen these [storms] popping up and started contacting my mother and aunt who lived here and let them know look, it looks like one's coming right at you."
David's chase to the north came to a close as he raced toward Lake Martin. By the time he made it to the lake, the tornado had already come and gone.
David recalls what he saw when arriving near the cabin: "The deeper we got in, it became obvious when we got to the crest of the hill up here and the lightning flashed and I could see almost all the way to the point. You couldn't see a single tree. You could just see where the trees had been snapped off."
David's mother and aunt were nowhere to be found. Both of their bodies were later located along the debris that was once the cabin where they were seeking shelter.
"At that point, I kind of knew and I told them, you know what? Go find them, but I can't be there. I didn't say it, but I knew how it was going to end," explains David.
The extent of the devastation was clear at daybreak. The powerful wind that dipped down from the darkened sky had uprooted, shredded, and strewn everything in its path.
David talks about what was left standing, "You couldn't see the sky, there were trees everywhere. The cabin was right here. It's beautiful, but no, it doesn't look anything like I remember and I don't recognize it."
Despite everything the tornado took, something came back.
"A woman contacted my wife, and I don't know how she found her," says David, "Sent her a Facebook message and said 'I think I have your mother-in-law's driver's license. I said 'Can you send it back to me?' She said 'yeah, where are you?' I said, 'Would you send it to Wetumpka?' and she said 'I'm in LaGrange, Georgia."
David cherishes the driver's license that was returned to him, something he will keep very close to him for the rest of his life. Although David has come to accept the loss of his mother and aunt, he struggles with the way they were taken from him and his family. David offers this piece of advice to all.
"When they say get out of the way, you need to get up and get out of the way."
As we head into our secondary severe weather season it is vital that we heed the warnings when severe weather occurs.
David would like to give a special thank you to the non-profit organization Mission Love Seeds of Destin, FL. The group helped build the Road to Recovery in Elmore and Tuscaloosa Counties after the April tornadoes. David volunteered his time with this group shortly after the April 27th outbreak and asks that you donate either your time or a financial contribution to keep the group going strong.