BON SECOUR — The toasts to the bride and groom had just begun when the sky cracked open, and sheets of rain dropped and drenched the guests.Within minutes, staff members at the Swift-Coles Home …
BON SECOUR — The toasts to the bride and groom had just begun when the sky cracked open, and sheets of rain dropped and drenched the guests.
Within minutes, staff members at the Swift-Coles Home in Bon Secour were rushing to help guests seek shelter as a tornado tore past the nuptials and destroyed a nearby building.
"I've lived here my whole life and I've never seen it rain so hard," said House Manager Kathryn Graham.
The night before Halloween the couple celebrating their wedding at Swift-Coles historic home remained lighthearted through the showers that fell on and off all day. The pair declined to be interviewed for this article. Graham said as the reception began so did the heaviest downpours. Eventually staff members feared the tent installed to save the day would collapse under the weight of the water.
Guests hurried inside. As Graham lingered near the tent to round up the stragglers, she said she heard a noise coming from the direction of the Bon Secour fisheries.
"It sounded like metal crumpling a tin can," she said. "The wind picked up and I thought that's for sure a tornado."
Graham headed inside and shut all the doors in the home that dates to 1908. She yelled for guests to move away from the windows, get low to the ground and cover their heads.
"Then the sky turned green as the transformers blew outside," Graham said. "The power went out. And then, it was just over."
That night an EF1 tornado, the strongest of six that hit Baldwin County on Oct. 30, rolled through Bon Secour at 110 mph, coming within striking distance of the Swift-Coles Home.
Instead, the winds leveled a corn crib on the property's eastern field built in the late 1800s to store dried corn. The reception tent collapsed and the tables, chairs, and décor under it were destroyed.
Dozens of guests, however, were safe.
"We were lucky. When you look at the path, it started on County Road six, hit a mobile home, crossed the river and when it hit our banks it took an easterly direction," Graham said. "If it hadn't moved like that it would have been a direct hit to the house."
The National Weather Service in Mobile said the Bon Secour tornado was the strongest of the night's twisters in Baldwin County. Another EF1 tornado struck Magnolia Springs with peak winds of 100 mph, an EF0 hit Skunk Bayou at 85 mph, an EF0 came through Point Clear at 85 mph, an EF1 struck Spanish Fort at 90 mph and an EF0 hit Daphne at 80 mph.
As hurricane season comes to an end on Nov. 30, it does little for the nerves of the weather-nervous to know that tornado season in Alabama began Nov. 1.
Typically, there are two peak times in tornado season, which runs through the end of April. First in November and December and again in February through April. Those often-overactive weather months are delivered by multiple fronts moving into the area as the seasons change.
Those fronts bring windshear into the atmosphere which tornadoes thrive off, said Brandon Black, a meteorologist with the National
Black stressed that it is important to be aware during storms and heed warnings to seek shelter when tornado warnings are issued.
At the Swift-Coles Home, once the storm passed and nerves settled, the bride and groom were able to have their first dance, upstairs in one of the home's bedrooms. Guests squeezed into the dark room and lit the makeshift dance floor with cellphone flashlights.
"It was a beautiful moment," Graham said. "There wasn't a dry eye. We were so lucky that night."