Community Stories

Tornado Tears Down Fences, Knits Community Together

Toronado rips roof off of Ryland Pike home.

As Madison County hunkered down under a tornado warning on Tuesday night, Pastor Tim Payne learned the Ryland Pike Community was in trouble.

“I heard a tornado had passed over Highway 72 on one TV station, then another report mentioned Brownsboro – that’s when I got a really bad feeling,” said Payne, who pastors Wears Chapel Baptist Church on Ryland Pike.

His bad feeling was quickly confirmed. An EF-2 tornado with winds up to 135 mph ripped through the Ryland Pike Community, tearing the roofs off houses, uprooting trees and shifting foundations.

“It is a miracle that no lives were lost,” Pastor Payne said. “That’s incredible when you’re looking at a back porch that was lifted up and slammed into a trailer, and no one was injured.”

More than 30 homes were severely damaged and upwards of 100 houses were affected by the storm in the Ryland Pike, Brownsboro and Mayesville areas.

Payne and a team of church members opened Wears Chapel Baptist Church that night as a shelter. The church was one of the few buildings in the area that still had electricity. The next day, Central School’s PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) asked if they could use Wears Chapel’s kitchen to cook student lunches.

Pastor Tim Payne and Central School’s PTO liaison, Donna Meadows working to restore the Ryland Pike community.

“Of course, we were glad we could do this,” Payne said. “The PTO has been great. They helped prepare and, along with our church members, deliver more than 200 meals to families in the area.


An Ef-2 tornado tore down fences in the Ryland Pike area November 29, 2106.

No Fences Make Good Neighbors

People from all over the county and from every walk of life jumped in to help with the clean up. Individuals and volunteers from companies in Research Park, Central School, Flint River Primitive Church, Hurricane Chapel Missionary Baptist Church and Cornerstone Baptist Church joined forces with Pastor Payne’s crew to help residents cut tree limbs, and clear debris.

“Working together, nobody was asking who you voted for or what kind of car you drive or if you sit in any particular church pew,” Payne said. “The only questions were ‘What do you need?’ and ‘How can I help?’”

This storm tore down a lot of fences – literally and figuratively. “We need more of this, and I hope it continues on a day-to-day basis not just in the aftermath of crisis,” Payne said.

He has seen this kind of community building after other disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the deadly tornadoes of 2011. “Disaster strikes, and we suddenly realize we need each other.”

“These days, it’s easy to live in close proximity to people and never get to know them. But, now our neighbors can call each other by name. Knowing who your neighbor is—that’s a good thing,” Payne said.

If you would like make donations or volunteer to help the storm victims, contact Pastor Tim Payne at 256-975-1404 or email [email protected]

We at the Community Journal love sharing stories like this one, stories that show people what an amazing community we have here. Have you got a story about how others in your community jumped in to help? We want to hear about it.

Email Laurie: [email protected]

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Melissa Ford Thornton

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