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‘Moments where hope seemed very fleeting’: Tuscaloosa mayor remembers April 27th

Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 5:21 PM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - Eleven years ago Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox found himself in a crisis he and the city had never faced before.

A tornado that hit on April 27, 2011, shredded 12% of Tuscaloosa.

Mayor Maddox had just started his second term when the storm hit. The mayor knew his city would never be the same.

$500 million. That’s the amount of damage the tornado inflicted city-wide; $100 million worth of damage to the city’s infrastructure.

“Certainly there were.. moments where hope seemed very fleeting,” said Maddox.

53 people were killed in Tuscaloosa.

“The future seemed very dark indeed, yet you felt like Tuscaloosa was going to do this,” he said.

“Nothing compares to April 27 and nothing has since,” he said.

Maddox admitted he had reached a breaking point two days later, just before doing a live interview with one of the major networks.

“Deaths and destruction and I really thought you know ‘I’m out.’ But in my earpiece they started counting down to the interview and we had to keep going,” said mayor Maddox.

But through it all hope never faded away because of what he remembers on a street corner just hours after the storm.

“Early the next morning I went home to get a change of clothes and saw a Northport police officer working one of our intersections. I knew then we were not alone,” he said.

Not alone in the mess and what a mess it was. But since that time, there’s been a resurgence to the tune of $1.1 billion in the recovery zone.

" Of that the city’s portion was $130 million,” Mayor Maddox recalled.

In short, Tuscaloosa became a profile in courage and resiliency.

Another memory of that day; more than 30 municipalities throughout the state helped Tuscaloosa bounce back, not counting the help it received throughout the country.

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