Friday, May 06, 2011

Surviving the Tuscaloosa tornadoes

Today I spoke with Gib Fox, golf course superintendent at Ol' Colony Golf Complex in Tuscaloosa, Ala., about the destruction from the recent tornadoes there.
"It was black as night and eerily calm," he said, describing the scene. "You could see some small debris in the sky. Everybody says it sounds like a freight train. It doesn’t. It sounds worse."
Two tornadoes hit about a half hour apart, he said. The first one, he added, was mammoth, hitting at about 11 a.m.
Fox, his wife and two children live about a mile-and-a-half from where the tornado touched down. "We were looking at it as it passed and I was saying, 'This is bad. It was a half-mile wide and you could see it clear as day."
The twister was reportedly moving at 180 miles per hour, leaving a swath of devastation in its wake. Fox and his family do not have a basement, so they took shelter in a makeshift teepee they constructed in the middle of their house. Thankfully, he said, his kids didn't understand the gravity of the situation.
After the twister passed over his house, Fox stepped outside. "It was dead calm," he said. But the winds kicked up again shortly thereafter, and the second, smaller, tornado arrived.
"The second one went right over the golf course," Fox said. "I could see it. It was spinning up the in the air and I could see it. "
Like Fox's neighborhood, the golf course was spared any damage. Other areas, however, were not so lucky. The death toll is nearing 40, and whole neighborhoods are destroyed. "It looks like you took bulldozers and lined them up in a row and went to work," Fox said. "There’s nothing left.... And any time anybody loses their life, it’s bad."

Despite the massive physical and emotional devastation the tornado left behind, Fox said that given the record-breaking twister came within 200 yards of touching down at the University of Alabama and a nearby hospital, the death toll could have been even higher.
Sadly, in the end, he said, "You can rebuild a home, but you can't replace the people."

Links at Tuscaloosa Golf & Country Club superintendent Jason Bonneville videotaped the tornado and its aftermath.

No comments: