University of Alabama Begins Slow Recovery Following Tornadic Outbreak

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The University of Alabama canceled classes on Thursday following the worst tornado outbreak to strike the state in almost 40 years.1 The school’s main campus in Tuscaloosa escaped damage, but widespread destruction was felt all across this city of 83,000. The storms later raced to the northeast, pummeling Birmingham and than on to Georgia and other southern states. Reports say that more than 300 people are dead, with about two-thirds that number in Alabama alone.

Worst Tornado Outbreak

Denny Chimes on the UA campus.

The latest outbreak is the deadliest in a month that will go down as the worst for the number of tornadoes recorded. Previously, 543 tornadoes were recorded in May 2003. Month to date, some 800 tornadoes have been recorded, well above the average of 163 twisters for the month.2

The Tuscaloosa area had plenty of warning that bad weather was on its way Wednesday as the National Weather Service issued alerts the night before and throughout the day. The storms swept out of Texas and through Louisiana and Mississippi hours earlier before dropping at least two tornadoes on the Tuscaloosa around 5 p.m. local time. One tornado was reported to be about one mile wide. The storms knocked out power on the Crimson Tide campus and the school opened its Student Recreation Center to students whose off campus housing was damaged.

Classes Canceled

The university canceled classes at 3:43 p.m. when the tornado watch for the area was turned into a tornado warning as doppler radar indicated that the area was likely to be impacted by a tornado. Classes were canceled for the evening as well as power was lost across much of the campus. The school’s dining facilities were closed except for Lakeside Dining which stayed open until 9 p.m. to serve students.

City, county and state officials conduced house to house searches in all affected areas on Wednesday looking for survivors and the dead. Governor Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency and received a federal emergency declaration from President Barack Hussein Obama. National Guard troops were brought in and relief provided by several groups including the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse.

Damage was extensive in Crimson Place, a condominium complex located just south of the Alabama campus and the home for many university students.3 The university has canceled classed through Friday.

References

1 University of Alabama: Weather

2 Citizen-Times; April Could be Record Month for Tornadoes; April 28, 2011

3 The Crimson White; Students, Residents Feel Tornado’s Effects; Taylor Holland; April 28, 2011

Photo: Wikipedia

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Categories: Campus News