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Tuesday | 15 May, 2012 | 9:44 am

Moving forward

By Julie Sammarco

Marmon/Keystone rebuilds after tornado destroys its Birmingham facility

May 2012 - Unusual winter weather caused several tornados that ripped through Alabama on January 23, according to the National Weather Service. Birmingham, Ala., was among the areas hit hardest by an EF-3 tornado, which indicates a severe storm.

The tornado hit Marmon/Keystone’s Birmingham branch at roughly 3:30 a.m., destroying the warehouse and office building.

But the company is rebuilding a new and improved service center at 105 Goodrich Drive from the ground up and expects it to reopen within the next year, according to a company press release. Plans include a steel-reinforced concrete storm shelter and a more modern and secure facility overall.

“The new site will definitely be more modern,” says Greg Paugh, Birmingham branch manager. “We are hoping to have everything done before the end of the year.” He adds the facility will have features to help prevent future damage from Mother Nature.

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The tornado ripped off the roof of the office and warehouse buildings, collapsed the exterior walls and tore down two overhead cranes from the warehouse ceiling. “Thank goodness it occurred in the early morning hours before anyone arrived at work, so there were no injuries,” said President J.T. "Tim" Spatafore in a press release.

The Birmingham branch had a 100,000-square-foot warehouse with 17 additional acres of outside storage. It provided service to Alabama and shipping into Mississippi, Tennessee, eastern Arkansas, the panhandle of Florida and portions of Louisiana. A distributor of tubular products for more than 100 years, Marmon/Keystone inventories more than 15,000 sizes and grades of carbon, alloy, stainless and aluminum tubular and bar products and has service centers and sales offices located throughout North America, with corporate headquarters in Butler, Pa.

Rebuilding with support
The day following the tornado, some Birmingham employees headed to the company’s Atlanta office to resume work, while others stayed behind to help with the recovery process. Marmon/Keystone also began to ship materials to Birmingham’s customers from other warehouses in the region. No major delays occurred.

All employees now have returned to Birmingham, and 100 percent of the branch’s inventory has been salvaged and relocated to a temporary work site on the Pinson Valley Parkway in Birmingham, where warehousing and office functions are taking place. Product is being cut and shipped out of the Goodrich Drive pipe yard, which was untouched by the tornado.

Although severe storm damage can be devastating to families and businesses, require millions of dollars and numerous years in rebuilding efforts and unimaginable patience, the company is optimistic and grateful for the support it has received.

“It is amazing how dedicated our employees have been in pulling together so we can continue servicing our customers despite the circumstances,” says Paugh. “We are so grateful to everyone in the metals industry for their support, especially the customers, competitors and suppliers who were quick to offer their assistance.”

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The storm system stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. More than 100 people were injured and at least two were killed. Homes were flattened, windows were blown out of cars and roofs were peeled back in the rural community of Oak Grove near Birmingham. Some roads were impassable and there were a number of county roads with either debris, trees down or damage from homes, according to The Huffington Post’s report from that day.

For now, the company will continue to run operations from the facility on Pinson Valley Parkway, just 1.5 miles from its original Birmingham location, until the new facility is complete. MM

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