10 Years Later, Monk Remembers the Tuscaloosa Tornado [VIDEO]
April 27 is just another date, unless you were in the path of the massive EF-4 multi-vortex tornado the swept across the Southern U.S. on that date in 2011.
That day a mile wide tornado destroyed 12% of our city. When the twister first touched down in the Rosedale community, we were witnessing maximum sustained winds of 190 mph.
Ours was just one of the 355 tornadoes that touched down across the south from April 25-29, the largest tornado outbreak in United States history.
Whenever I cut the television on and see that a tornado warning has been issued or that a twister has torn through another town, I’m reminded and very vividly replay the events of April 27, 2011 over in my mind.
At the time, I was working with our sister station 95.3 The Bear. My memory of that day started with a call from our morning show host at around 4:30am telling me there was a tornado warning for Tuscaloosa County. The wind outside our home was howling so, I woke my family up, got the dogs in the house and headed toward the basement. The wind shook our garage doors for the next fifteen minutes or so and then went silent.
I looked out the window when we went back upstairs and only saw a small tree lying on the ground at the back of our property. It appeared we had made it through; I got ready for work and was off.
At the time, I lived in the Lakeview area so it normally took me half an hour to get to work, this day that wasn’t going to happen. There was a tree down across the road I lived on so I had to turn and head to Tuscaloosa on Hwy. 216. When I got to Brookwood I decided to head down Covered Bridge Road to the interstate and encountered another tree down. After an hour of trying, I made it to work and went into “meteorologist mode” at that point. James Spann was on ABC 33/40 talking about what had happened and what was to come.
My on-air shift started at 3pm. That day I think I was only actually live for the first thirty minutes or so when the first tornado warning hit the listening area. At that point we turned the stations to wall-to-wall coverage from James Spann knowing he could do a better job of tracking a storm.
Around 4:50 – 5 pm, the sky over our station on Skyland Blvd. grew dark and eerie. Spann had been warning us all to, “lookout” for this storm and by the tone of his voice, I think everyone knew this wasn’t going to be just another simple storm.
About 5:10pm, I stepped out front of our studios, pointed my phone camera down Skyland Blvd. toward Lowe’s and captured this…
At 5:13 pm, it seemed like all hell had broken loose. We quickly found cover in our building and prayed for safety. Within a few minutes, our little plot of earth on Skyland Blvd. was silent. I'll never forget walking out into the parking lot and being overwhelmed with how quiet it was. No street lights humming, no powerlines buzzing, just the sound of what seemed like hundreds of sirens off in the distance.
We had no idea what our city had just been through. We had lost power and cellphone coverage was limited. Calls to family to let them know we were okay came first then each of us tried to get news of exactly what happened, however we could.
In the days that followed, my co-workers and I put in countless hours making sure we got the correct information out to the public and did our part out in the community to make sure those who lost, had help.
That day, 10 years ago, I learned that when confronted with the worst of situations, people can come together for the greater good.