Tornado that killed 3 in Rosalie Leaves Dade Unscathed: Rains Dousing Wildfires

The tornado that killed three in neighboring Rosalie, Ala., tripped Dade Countians out of their beds shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday morning with EXTREME ALERT TAKE SHELTER NOW warnings on cellphones, but otherwise left Dade mercifully alone. Dade County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley said by phone this morning that trees across roads was about as bad as things got locally. "We haven't even had any roof damage reports," he said.

Jackson County, Ala., Medical Examiner John Jordan, contacted by The Planet this morning, confirmed the three deaths in Rosalie on Sand Mountain, two adult females and one adult male. He said the three were killed in a day care center on Highway 117 near Ider, Ala., which is in neighboring DeKalb County. He said no names were being released pending notification of their families.

Other media reported that the day care in question had been closed for business at that hour but that the deceased had lived nearby. The Planet was unable to ascertain if they were the day care facility's operators.

Jordan said most of the tornado damage had been to that area of Sand Mountain. Several other people in Jackson had been injured and DeKalb also had reported injuries but no fatalities had been reported as far as he knew. Scottsboro, the seat of the Jackson County government, looked pretty good, he said, with nothing happening now but the unaccustomed and welcome rain.

In Dade, there's another bright side besides the dodged-bullet aspect: The torrential rains that continue in the tornado's wake are steadily quenching the fires that have beleaguered the mountainsides these two months. "I think the rains you're getting up there in Dade are definitely going to put out any fire that may be burning up there right now," said Hannah Cowart, information officer for the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC), which has been managing multiple wildfires in Dade and surrounding Georgia counties.

All the Dade fires have been judged to be 100 percent contained, if not out, except for the monster wildfire at Tatum Gulf, which has remained from day to day at 80 percent containment. Ms. Cowart said she can't pronounce Tatum Gulf officially defunct yet but she expects that to change today.

She explained that the reason Tatum Gulf had remained at 80 percent so long was the reburns that persisted in breaking out, but after the rains of Monday night, no more reburns had been reported to her knowledge on Tuesday. Today's heavy rains make further reburns even less likely. "We expect that after this rain pulls through and we're able to look at things that we'll be able to increase that containment figure," she said.

GFC's concern now, said Ms. Cowart, is whether enough rain continues in the coming weeks to keep wildfire chances low or whether things will dry out again. Otherwise, she said, GFC is in the process of coming up with an "emergency stablization plan" to counter any environmental damage caused by the firefighting. "We've got to go in and inspect areas where firebreaks were installed and install prevention measures for erosion and sedimentation," she said.

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