ELMORE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - When images of April 27, 2011, are remembered for many, they often focus on the destruction in the northern parts of Alabama, but disastrous weather stretched across Alabama. An EF-4 tornado moved from Elmore to Tallapoosa County, going through Lake Martin, claiming seven lives, and injuring 30 people.
In Elmore County, Myers Country Acres served as a mobile home park for residents of Eclectic.
“We were a family out here,” says Nancy Myers, owner of the park. “Everybody considered me Mama.”
On that tragic day 10 years ago, Myers and her husband, Billy Ray Meyers, stayed at the park while encouraging others to seek safer places to ride out the storm. Alabama had already seen dozens of tornadoes hit. The extent of the devastation was just beginning to be understood. Almost 16 hours after the outbreak started, the 56th tornado of the day formed—this one in Elmore County.
“It was real muggy outside for that time,” says Stephen Bush. He was only twelve years old at the time, living at the Myers park with his mother Tammy Adams. “It really felt almost like summer and the wind was already blowing. It just felt really weird.”
It was actually at the persistence of Bush that encouraged his family to go to a safe area.
“After the doctor’s appointment. I wanted to come back home out here and he said, ‘No, no, we need to go to so Nanny’s’” says Adams.
Her mother lived in Montgomery which did see its own storms that day, but was spared from tornadoes.
Adams actually went back to Myers Country Acres late to pick up medicine for her son.
“The longer I was in my home, it started getting worse and worse and worse,” says Adams. I looked out the front door and when idea the wind was really blowing, I mean, it was starting to look bad. And I thought, Oh my gosh, I got scared.” She continues, “as I was driving off one last time and I looked at my home. And I said ‘God, please don’t let anything bad happened tonight.’”
Bush remembers that night and not having his mother as the evening went on.
“Me and my grandmother were just waiting for her to get back,” Bush said. “We heard the tornado warning was issued for Eclectic. She was not back yet. She, I guess was on the way and we were panicking a little bit.”
Back at the park, Myers and her husband prepared for the storm.
“My husband went out on the front porch,” says Myers. “We had already gotten in our closet; he went out on the front porch to check the weather and he comes back in and jumps in the closet and says we’re fixing to be hit. And we were hit. This house felt like a box of Cracker Jacks being shaken for just an instant. And then it was all over.”
The damage path of the tornado stretched more than 44 miles and the width, 880 yards. Of the seven people killed along that track, four were at Myers Country Acres.
Myers recalls the eerie feeling as she stepped outside for the first time after the storm.
“It was total silence in total darkness, and I could hear people in the park hollering ‘help me.’” Myers says. “You could hear the voices of them calling for help but you couldn’t see anybody. It was really hard to find people and some of them were buried under debris.”
Adams remembers Mrs. Myers calling her mother to tell her everything was gone. Adams and her son went back to what was their home the next morning.
“It like, took my breath away. I couldn’t fathom what I was looking at. I couldn’t process that. I couldn’t understand how that happened, how a tornado could pick a mobile home up like that.”
Her son, Stephen, remembers his feelings seeing it all for the first time, saying “I remember looking at my mom even though being nine years old, I don’t know if I can stand to look what I’m fixing to look at.”
Myers says once the tornado passed that night, just minutes passed before firefighters were making their way into the area.
“They were going door to door and then when they got up there, there was no doors, there was no mobile homes, they was just having to dig around for people,” says Myers. “The traffic was stopped on this road because unfortunately, we had bodies in the road and the traffic was stopped on both ends. So, people had to get out of their vehicles, like the firemen and all. They had to get out of their vehicles and search through debris for people.”
As Myers had said, those living around her and her husband were close, but their family dealt with their own personal heartache. “My husband was asked to identify his sister-in-law and his niece who had been killed in a tornado, and that scene never left him,”
Myers says her husband, Billy Ray, passed away in 2019. “He died remembering having to identify dead bodies. He never recovered from that.”
After the storm, the Myers rebuilt. This time, they included a storm shelter—a cargo shipping container buried into the side of a hill. “People are so much more willing to go to a storm shelter now because they’ve seen a tornado,” says Myers. “Before where we couldn’t get them to go to safety because I didn’t realize how bad it was. But once you live through it, you’re willing to go to a safe place.”
As for Tammy Adams and Stephen Bush, severe weather is not something taken lightly. “I’ve always liked weather, but I never thought that, as silly as it sounds, I will be affected or as badly,” says Bush.
“I’m glad that I listened to him,” says Adams. “I always say he’s my little hero because I would have been out here.”