Oak Mountain

Late March 2021 Tornado Damage at Oak Mountain State Park

My March 23, 2021 Great Blue Heron Blog Post reflected on natural disasters: https://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/03/23/reflections-on-natural-disasters/

Here’s a brief excerpt: From the perspective of managers and recreationists at Joe Wheeler State Park (Rogersville, AL), the December 2019 tornado that destroyed the campground amounted to a natural disaster. Nature “handles” such disasters in stride. In fact, such storms serve to renew the forest, or whatever ecosystem is affected. It is we humans who struggle with the impacts. 

Ironically, just three days after I published that Post an EF2 tornado raced across the north side of Oak Mountain State Park (Pelham, AL). I visited the Park April 14-16 2021, just a couple of weeks after the tornado. The first afternoon my hosts took me to the Park’s north side, beyond the road closure signs, to view tornado damage.

Here are six photos taken by Park Superintendent Kelly Ezell March 26. The twister mowed the forest along the lakeshore.

Oak Mountain


Some areas appeared to have had their tops snapped at the base of the live crown.

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The storm just grazed this shoreline before rushing northeastward just offshore.

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Park crews were just beginning to reopen the road when Kelly snapped this photo (below left) of jackstrawed trees. By the following day, the road reopened to Park crews (below right).

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I took the remainder of the photographs April 14. Spring greens are more evident in ground vegetation and in the standing hardwoods below right.

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Whether trees snapped or uprooted the net result is a forest that must make a new beginning. The tornado did not destroy the forest. Instead, Nature has given the affected forest ecosystem a chance to renew…naturally renew.

Oak Mountain


The tornado moved away from the camera grazing the shoreline. Spring green-up is already masking evidence of its passing. The photo below right is the opposite shore. I saw no evidence of damage just those one hundred yards away.

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The storm totaled several Park buildings, including a staff residence, near where Kelly and I snapped our photos. Sufficient advance warning allowed all staff to seek shelter at a safe central location. Fortunately no staff nor visitors suffered physical harm.

As a career-long forest ecologist, I will say quite confidently that the forest ecosystem suffered no permanent injury. Yes, individual trees were snapped or blown over. However, our forests are resilient. Seed stored in the forest litter seedbank will germinate. Many of our native hardwood species will sprout vegetatively from stumps or roots. Non-tree woody species will flourish with the light that will now reach the forest floor. Our native forests have been responding to natural forest disturbance as long as there have been forests. Nature knows change and disruption. She will not miss a beat.


Alabama State Parks Foundation


Thoughts and Reflections


I offer these reactions to visiting the recent tornado track:

  • Natural disturbance is the norm in our forests.
  • Our forest ecosystems are hard-wired to recover from fire, ice, drought, and wind (even tornadic winds).
  • Every major disturbance is an opportunity for forest renewal. 

Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire, Inform, and Reward you!


Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

Another Note: If you came to this post via a Facebook posting or by an another route, please sign up now (no cost… no obligation) to receive my Blog Post email alerts: http://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com


Reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.


  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!


Steve’s Three Books

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

  • I love hiking and exploring in Nature
  • I see images I want to (and do) capture with my trusty iPhone camera
  • I enjoy explaining those images — an educator at heart
  • I don’t play golf!
  • I actually do love writing — it’s the hobby I never needed when my career consumed me
  • Judy suggested my writing is in large measure my legacy to our two kids, our five grand kids, and all the unborn generations beyond
  • And finally, perhaps my books and Blogs could reach beyond family and touch a few other lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's BooksOak Mountain


All three of my books (Nature Based LeadershipNature-Inspired Learning and LeadingWeaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship to the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any and all from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.