The following is text directly from the NWS Damage Survey for the January 25th Tornado Event:
Central Alabama was involved within a warm sector area during the night of January 25th, 2021, featuring dew points in the low to mid-60s and surface-based instability reaching as high as 1,200 J/kg. Strong wind shear was in place which, combined with instability, favored a risk for severe storms. Upper-level troughing was displaced well toward the northwest, which helped to limit the number of severe storms, with just one or two occurring in Central Alabama through the event.
The storm that produced the EF-3 tornado was first tracked from near Interstate 55 in Central Mississippi. As the storm moved across Mississippi and into West Alabama it exhibited episodes of rotation, but none were strong enough to produce a tornado. As the storm entered Jefferson County, its structure underwent organization. A rotational signature quickly matured, with an associated BEWR signature on RADAR. A strong tornado was spawned, affecting populated areas just north of Birmingham. This storm continued eastward into Georgia, with additional occurrences of rotation but no additional tornadoes.
This event will be reviewed as the formation of this tornadic storm was particularly interesting given the overall environment. A few small-scale factors, perhaps not present elsewhere, appear to have come together to allow this storm to produce such a tornado.
.Fultondale Tornado (Jefferson County)…
Estimated Peak Wind: 150 mph
Path Length /statute/: 9.5 miles
Path Width /maximum/: 500 yards
Injuries: 30 plus
Start Date: 01/25/2021
Start Time: 10:40 pm
Start Location: 5 NNW Birmingham
Start Lat/Lon: 33.5971 / -86.8246
End Date: 01/25/2021
End Time: 10:54 pm
End Location: 2 SW Pinson
End Lat/Lon: 33.6539 / -86.6810
The tornado began along Chapel Hills Parkway, where minor damage to homes occurred. The tornado then tracked northeastward across Ellard Road, then directly over the Walker Chapel Road overpass on Interstate 65. It was at this interstate exit where the tornado began to intensify, snapping numerous power poles and causing substantial damage to the Hampton Inn. The damage to the hotel and surrounding area suggests EF-2 strength (winds up to 115 mph). The tornado continued northeastward, crossing Highway 31, causing mostly tree damage along the highway. As the tornado moved into more residential areas along Fulton Drive and Lykes Boulevard, substantial damage occurred with several homes being destroyed with at least one being swept off the foundation. There was also significant tree damage in the neighborhood. The tornado paralleled Carson Road and continued causing substantial damage to homes along Meida Circle, Darlene Drive, and New Castle Road. The damage along New Castle Road was widespread with a few trees debarked and debris from homes thrown considerable distances. The tornado began to weaken at this point and crossed Carson Road near the intersection of North Pine Hill Road, causing damage to Fultondale High School before crossing Pinson Valley Parkway (Highway 79). Along Highway 79, several mobile homes were damaged by falling trees in the Rusk Mobile Home Park. The tornado finally lifted near Highway 75 in Center Point, where trees and powerlines were downed near the Jefferson County Multi-Services Facility.
Note: The information in this statement is preliminary and subject to change pending final review of the event and publication in NWS Storm Data.