For those that don't know, I have several projects for the City of Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama that I am working on. I travel to the city several times a month. It goes without saying that my trips to Tuscaloosa over the past month have been rather humbling. I was actually scheduled to be in Tuscaloosa for a bid opening the afternoon the Tornado hit-the meeting was also scheduled to take place at the University's Facilities building, which is located on 15th Street. Through unrelated circumstances the meeting was cancelled at the last minute. There are three girls in this household that would like to thank the good Lord that trip never happened. The following are a few of the pictures I was able take a week after the tornado hit. The city has done a phenomenal job repairing infrastructure and cleaning the roads. You can actually drive down almost any of the streets in the affected areas now. With that said, it will be quite a while before the massive amounts of rubble will be anywhere close to being removed.
As always, these pictures will never come close to truly representing the destruction.
I have to say my emotions were rather mixed on my first visit to the city. I had heard on the news how much devastation the state had seen, particularly Tuscaloosa. I began to build the situation up in my mind and for some reason thought that on my two hour drive I would progressively see the damage get worse as I got closer to the city. I learned that day that tornadoes are not like hurricanes (which being in the southeast near the gulf, we are more familiar with). I saw several trees down and a damaged roof or two on the way there, but by the time I reached the gate to the city (when I go under the overpass and officially arrive on McFarland Boulevard) nothing really looked that different to be honest. I am ashamed to say that at this point I thought to myself that the media may have over hyped the situation. The difference in a hurricane and a tornado is that the damage of the tornado is extremely isolated and focused. Once I reached the intersection of 15th Street, guilt sank in. How could I have allowed myself to even consider seeing this as something "exciting". While the path was defined to 15th Street, it's outcome truly was destruction. A street that I had previously driven down once a week essentially no longer existed. To the left or the right of the road, all you could see was rubble. For a suburban state that isn't defined by it's skyline, it was an eery feeling to no longer recognize where you where due to the fact that your self developed landmarks no longer exist.
Again, these pictures cannot begin to describe what those in Tuscaloosa have experienced and are yet to experience - and yet, this is a single city throughout the southeast that was affected by this storm. I hope that through these pictures you will find yourself humbled and next time you find yourself watching a Youtube video of a storm, that you remember while this demonstration of God's power is amazing and on some frightening level it is exciting, that there are real people caught in the path.
Take a moment to offer a prayer of strength and hope to those who where affected. If you can afford monetary donations head over The Alabama West Florida United Methodist Church for monetary donations or Serve Alabama to sign up to volunteer your time and services through the states official volunteer signup site. There are hundereds of churches and other organizations who are already leading the way locally to support our state's families. If you know of an opportunity to serve or want to leave a prayer request, you can do so in the comment section below.