Twelve years ago, Alabama saw its largest tornado on record. Its damage was devastating and still impacts families and businesses today.
But there is a noticeable difference that arose from the immediate response efforts by Alabama Power and local volunteers. The spark of hope that many held onto in the worst of times catapulted the community into some its best.
Electricity played a major part in getting people back to normal life. Great strides have been made to the recovery including power infrastructure within the devastated areas. The immediate response from Alabama Power to set up 11 staging areas for housing resources was a record number by the company.
Since then, more than 3,000 transformers have been replaced, more than 7,600 poles replaced, and enough wiring cable was put up to span from Birmingham to Washington, D.C.
More specifically, in Tuscaloosa, more than $1 billion in public and private investments fueled the rebuilding of homes and businesses.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox recalled in an interview with Alabama News Center, “People of this city didn’t wait. They took care of what was needed in their respective neighborhoods. Alabama Power being one of those that was able to establish hope pretty quickly in the process.”
Within seven days, Alabama Power reported that 99% of its customers’ power had been restored. Their swift action led to national recognition with the Edison Electric Institute’s Emergency Recovery Award.
Harrison Taylor, the former president of the Tuscaloosa City Council, told NPR, “Black, white, young and old came together and we worked through this thing and made Tuscaloosa what it is today.”
The Alabama Power Foundation reached out to the leaders and other nonprofits to help. A local housing authority lost over 100 homes- “he still talks about how Alabama power cared,” said Vice President Mark Crews. Crews volunteered with boots on the ground in Brookwood alongside Habitat for Humanity to help complete a project.
After a 10-year effort of rebuilding Juanita Drive, Habitat for Humanity dedicated its final home as the Wooley family moved in to a fully furnished house from High Socks for Hope. The Tuscaloosa News reported, “more than 26,500 volunteers from the local area, 50 states and six continents have helped Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa build 87 homes, 34 of which are on Juanita Drive, and repair more than 250 homes since the 2011 tornado.”
Not only have businesses and homes been revived, but safety prevention measures have been increased as well, including safe rooms in community centers.
Today, driving through Tuscaloosa, the spirit of a hopeful community shines through its new housing and business developments, as well as in the stories told from the people who survived that day.