Independence Tube rises from tornado's ashes

Dec 31, 2012 | 07:00 PM | Bill Beck

Tags  Independence Tube Corp., Rick Werner, Alabama, Tennessee Valley Authority, Bill Beck

An Alabama metals producer that was destroyed by a tornado in April 2011 was back up and running within a year of the devastating storm.

Independence Tube Corp.’s Decatur, Ala., facility was ground zero for a powerful tornado that struck April 27, 2011. That afternoon, 55 tornadoes skipped across northern Alabama, part of a deadly storm system that spawned 358 tornadoes and caused 348 deaths over four days. The Decatur plant, which began producing squares, rectangles and rounds in 2006 and completed a 125,000-square-foot expansion in 2010, was leveled; the 435,000-square-foot mill was a total loss.

“My first thought was, ‘Thank God nobody was hurt,’” said Independence Tube president Rick Werner, who at the time was in Orlando, Fla. He got in his car and drove all night to Alabama. “We looked at it the first time that next morning. There was just shock and awe at the amount of devastation.”

About 25 employees and two truck drivers were in the building when the tornado, packing winds of more than 200 mph, hit just after 4 p.m. Employees had been following the track of the storm, and all but one truck driver managed to find shelter in cement-block rooms in the interior of the mill building. That driver, who was preparing to accept a load of tubing, rode out the storm in the cab of his truck.

Meteorologists later determined that the storm that hit Independence Tube had cut a swath 1¼ miles wide and more than 100 miles long.....

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