Forecasters were working Friday to determine whether a tornado partially collapsed the roof of a southeast Alabama Wal-Mart late Thursday, injuring at least six people but none seriously.
A strong storm cell passed through Troy, about 50 miles southeast of Montgomery, before 11 p.m. Thursday. The storm caused significant damage to the Wal-Mart roof and tore out the wall of a nearby sporting goods store that was closed, according to Troy Mayor Jason Reeves.
An 18-wheel truck in the Wal-Mart lot also was overturned. It’s not clear how many people were in the Wal-Mart when the storm hit. Photos on social media showed merchandise strewn in aisles and the ceiling sagging.
“We’re very fortunate it happened at the night of night it did,” Reeves said. “In Alabama, you never know when a tornado might form. The weather is strange.”
Kevin Laws, chief scientist at the National Weather Service in Birmingham, said a survey team traveled to Troy on Friday morning and hopes to determine whether a tornado occurred, and the storm’s size and strength by the end of Friday.
Laws said tornadoes are “very rare” for southeast Alabama in August. Only 65 have occurred since 1950, the furthest NWS records track back.
Forecasters issued two advisories for the area, one at 9:30 and another 10:30. A tornado warning was issued at 10:39 p.m., Laws said.
“Severe weather can occur anytime, anyplace,” he said. “That’s why we have to be very vigilant, especially down in the southeast.”
Wal-Mart spokesman Brian Nick said emergency and company officials are assessing the damage to determine what works needs to be done. Employees of the store can work at other locations in the area if they choose, he said. Stores were anticipating a busy weekend as Alabama offers a tax-free period for back-to-school shopping before elementary, high school and college courses resume, he said.