Alberta one of communities hardest hit by tornadoBy Kelsey Stein | 04/30/2011 9:03pm
Kirkland Enterprises on University Boulevard in Alberta opened in 1935 as just a filling station and a garage.
Eventually, it grew to include several auto repair businesses run by different family members.
Wednesday night, it was reduced to rubble.
“It's all in the Lord's hands now,” said Faye Kirkland Grow, whose family still owns the business. “You just have to pick up and move on.”
Alberta, a Tuscaloosa neighborhood a few miles east of the UA campus, was one of the areas of Tuscaloosa most devastated by Wednesday night's deadly tornado, with block after block of homes and businesses in the tornado's path now unrecognizable.
Tuscaloosa City Councilman Kip Tyner took his mother to her house only five minutes before the tornado hit their neighborhood.
“I've been through tornadoes before, but never in my life have I experienced the noise of this one,” he said. “It sounded like 25 trains.”
When he emerged from the house, he saw a scene of pandemonium and ruin he'd never expected to see in his life. Some people were running panicked through the streets, crying and screaming. Others were pulling the dead from the debris that was once their homes.
“They were using the old Texaco station as a morgue,” Tyner said. “There were bodies all over the parking lot covered in sheets. The youngest I saw was three years old and the oldest were about 80.”
Tyner, who grew up in Alberta, knows of nine friends who were killed in the storm. He described the aftermath of the tornado as “the worst horror movie [he] could imagine.”
On Saturday afternoon, Kim Sanders, owner of Tuscaloosa Physical Therapy on University Boulevard, continued sifting through the remains of her business with the help of her family, including her daughters Kaitlin and Rachel.
“The storm lifted the whole building, picked it up and crashed it back down,” Kim Sanders said.
They have managed to salvage many of the possessions inside, besides some of their therapy equipment.
“We found a framed license and books underneath the walls,” Kaitlin Sanders said. “It looked like the building was eating them.”
Kim Sanders is primarily concerned with finding a way to get her business up and running as soon as possible for the sake of her patients.
“We've still been doing therapy even though the place was gone,” Kaitlin Sanders said. “We did it right here on the sidewalk.”
Volunteers have flocked to the community in response, setting up their base of operations in the Leland Shopping Center parking lot. A group called Samaritan's Purse, church groups and college students, both from Alabama and as far away as Indiana, are distributing food, water, clothing and other necessities to members of the Alberta community.
Truckloads of nonperishable items have arrived from across the country, and cases of water are stacked taller than the people dispensing them.
“We've got enough water for America here,” Tyner said.
Christin Byars, a UA graduate student, arrived in Alberta around 10 a.m. Saturday to volunteer.
“We've gotten clothes donations because other places can't take them anymore,” she said. “I've been thankful that everyone has stepped in, but there's so much to be done.”
Hayley Sansing, a High Forest resident, organized a group of friends to set up a tent on the outskirts of Alberta. Starting Friday morning with five cases of water, they have spent the last two days grilling hot dogs and hamburgers to give out to anyone in need.
“We've bought a lot of water, but also trucks have come by with it,” she said. “We've given out LSU water, Ole Miss water and Alpha Chi water. The support has been phenomenal.”
Despite the current abundance of supplies, Alberta will need volunteers and donations to aid the community's recovery process over the coming weeks and months. Power will not be restored for at least four weeks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is taking applications from displaced Alberta residents, but the process is slow.
Tyner hopes search and recovery will be finished by next week, at which point cleanup will begin.