Below is a gallery of photos from Hackleburg, Ala., that I made on April 29, 2011. The town was struck on April 27, 2011 by a long-track EF5 tornado that killed 18 people in the area.
On April 27, 2011 an EF5 tornado three quarters of a mile wide with wind speeds up to 210 mph struck Hackleburg, Ala. Eighteen people died in the small town located 15 miles north of Hamilton in Marion County. Hamilton is where I grew up. I was living in Tuscaloosa at the time and documented the destruction there on April 27th. Click here to read about that. I woke up on the morning of April 28th knowing I had to get to Marion County where most of the Northern half of the county was without power, including areas north of Hamilton where I had family. I drove to Marion County on the 28th and managed to get into Hackleburg to document the devastation. The Hackleburg tornado first touched down southwest of Hamilton and tracked northeast for 132 miles before lifting in southeast Tennessee. The tornado was responsible for 72 deaths and 145 injuries. This tornado tracked closely to the same path of the 1920 Tornado that killed 20 people in Marion County and also struck Hackleburg. Click here to read about that. Below is a slideshow of photos I made of Hackleburg on April 28, 2011. I made a few more trips back to Hackleburg in the following days. Check back for those slideshows.
Photos by Michael E. Palmer/Palmer's Almanac
On April 27, 2011 I was in Tuscaloosa when an EF4 tornado struck killing 44 people. Rosedale Court apartments received a direct hit. I arrived there just a few minutes after the tornado and began documenting the devastation. Below is a gallery of the photos. The April 27th tornado was part of a larger outbreak that spawned 355 tornadoes in 21 states from April 25-28. In those three days 348 people died in six states, 238 in Alabama alone. In the weeks before April 27th two other outbreaks affected the mid-west and South. During the April 14-16 outbreak a tornado hit Tuscaloosa. Click here to view images from the April 15th tornado. From April 19-24 another outbreak struck the South and Midwest. Click here to view photos from that event.
Here is the second gallery of photos from the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Selma reenactment from Saturday April 25th. To view the first gallery click here. Enjoy the photos.
Below is a gallery of photos I made Saturday during the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Selma reenactment in Selma, Ala. I'll post another gallery of photos tomorrow, so check for more photos. Enjoy!
This weekend Wendell Decker, the 19th Century wet-plate collodion artist, will be transporting people back in time through the photographic medium during the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Selma Civil War reenactment in Selma, Ala. Decker, of Bowling Green, Kentucky, uses a photographic process invented 160 years ago to capture images that appear as if they were made during that time. With today's instant digital push-of-a button cameras, the collodian process does not compare. Skill is required. The skills of an artist, scientist and psychologist are required to make an image that looks as if it were made a century and half ago. And Decker excels. In 2011 I made a few pictures as the artist struck an image of the actress and film director Whitney Hamilton at the Tannehill State Park. Enjoy those photos in a slideshow below.
From April 19-24, 2011 tornadoes danced across the Midwest and Southern United States causing extensive damage to property. But the thing about this outbreak is that no one was killed. That six-day tornado event sprang up just days after the April 14-16 outbreak. During that outbreak 178 tornadoes in 16 states killed 43 people. One tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa on April 15 resulting in no injuries.
The April 19-24 outbreak spawned 95 tornadoes of EF3 strength or less. However, one E4 tornado formed in the suburbs west of St. Louis, Mo. It left a 22 mile path of destruction through St. Louis. Thousands of homes were damaged by the 165 mph winds. It was the strongest tornado to hit St. Louis since 1967. The tornado damaged the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport as planes full of people sat on the tarmac. At the end of the day no one was killed but it left $30 million in damages to the St. Louis metropolitan area. Below is a slide show of some of the damage from the Bridgeton area of St. Louis.
Photos by Michael E. Palmer/Palmer's Almanac
At 8 o’clock on the morning of April 20, 1920 the sky turned black and brought death and destruction to Marion County, Alabama. A mile-wide tornado wiped out entire families in small communities across Northwest Alabama. The tornado is considered one of the most deadly on record. It dropped from the sky southwest of Starkville, Mississippi and by the time it lifted 130 miles later at Town Creek, Alabama 88 people were dead. But it wasn’t the only killer that day. Seven tornadoes, 6 considered F4, struck Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee during an outbreak that meteorologist rank as the third deadliest in Alabama history behind the outbreaks of March 21, 1932 and April 27, 2011. Within a matter of hours on April 20, 1920, 224 were killed in Alabama and Mississippi.
On that morning the tornado crossed into Marion County from Monroe County, Mississippi hitting isolated farms and communities in the mostly rural area. South of Bexar nine people were killed. Twenty people in Marion County would die that day. A few of the lucky survivors included my great-uncle Joseph Washington Palmer and his family. He and his wife Rebecca Brown Palmer and a small child were home that morning. The home was located directly in the path of the killer tornado. The log cabin they were living in was completely destroyed. But the three managed to crawl from the wreckage unharmed. While researching for this blog post I located a photo of Joseph and Rebecca sitting among the wreckage of their former home. The photos are from a collection of Palmer family history gathered by my cousin Joel Palmer. On a recent trip through Marion County he showed me the old home place where Joesph W. Palmer’s cabin stood before the storm. He also showed me a cemetery where several victims of the storm are buried. Those places can be seen in the slideshow below.
It was around this time of year- about 625 years ago- that a group of pilgrims were preparing to set out from London on a journey to visit the shrine of St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury, England. That scene is recounted in the prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, a collection of 20 stories written in the 14th Century. I became fascinated with the Canterbury Tales after reading them in high school. Facinated, not because of a great love of Middle English literature, but because in the prologue to the Tales you can find one of the earliest recorded references to my family name, Palmer.
In the prologue the poet, Chaucer, recounts how he encountered the pilgrims outside a tavern in London and decided to join the group on their pilgrimage to Canterbury.
It was a time when the western winds were bringing April showers that watered the roots of spring flowers. It was a time when the birds returned and began singing. It was a time when people longed to leave their hovels and cottages after a long winter for a little spring vacation. And what better excuse for a vacation than to travel to the shrine of a martyred saint. A popular destination was the shrine of Beckett to pay homage. But the more devout and daring of these people, known as Palmers, sought more distant shrines known in various places in the Holy Land. On their return to England they would present a palm frond as proof of their journey, thus becoming known as Palmers. The name Palmer pops up again in English Literature 200 years later in Edmond Spencer’s epic poem "The Faerie Queen." The poem is a allegory in which the character of Palmer represents Reason. A Palmer also makes an appearance in the 1820 historical novel Ivanhoe set in 12th century England. In the opening scene of that novel a group of knights seek the guidance of a Palmer that has just returned from the Holy Land. Apparently Palmers were known to be guides and well traveled people of the medieval times. So well known in fact that the name made its way into the literature of the day beginning with Chaucer.
Chaucer, a civil servant and poet, became known as the Father of English Literature. In the Youtube link below you can hear the reference to the well-traveled Palmers and hear how Middle English sounded way back in the day. Enjoy.
150 years ago this morning President Abraham Lincoln succumbed to a gun shot wound to the back of his head. He was shot on the night of the 14th and languished for hours as doctors exhausted the limit of their abilities to save him. His death shocked the nation’s citizens already suffering the emotional and psychological trauma of a bloody four-year civil war. One of those citizens was the Poet Walt Whitman. Whitman composed four elegies to the slain president: “Hushed Be the Camps Today,” “This Dust Was Once the Man,” “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” and “O Captain! My Captain! “Captain utilizes the metaphor of a captain steering a ship safely to harbor- Lincoln steering the nation through the Civil War. However, as the ship reaches port it is discovered that the captain has “fallen cold and dead.” Captain became one of Whitman’s best known poems. On Youtube I found a pretty cool video of the poem set to music. You can see that and the text of Whitman’s elegy below.
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
Michael E. Palmer is a writer and photographer based in Alabama.
He can be reached at email@example.com