City trying to restore normalcy
Traffic has been restored to 15th St. and all 300 roads previously blocked in the county have been cleared, according to city and county officials in a press conference Wednesday morning.
Traffic control is still in place for Crescent Ridge Rd. in east Tuscaloosa.
“We are trying our dead-level best to get as much normalcy to our city as we can,” said W. Hardy McCollum, Tuscaloosa County probate judge. “We had seven events that impacted Tuscaloosa County from all the way to the very north of Tuscaloosa County to New Lexington to the very south of Tuscaloosa County in Maxwell community. We've had events to deal with.”
Search and rescue operations continue to function in grid patterns in the affected areas with 27 cadaver dogs sniffing for bodies trapped beneath the rubble strewn by the tornado, said Ted Sexton, Tuscaloosa County sheriff.
The Holt area will be combed next for missing persons with the assistance of a task team from Mobile.
“We haven't been in [Holt] and cleared those areas yet,” said Alan Martin, Tuscaloosa Fire Chief. “We believe we're going to be able to clear some of those areas in the next day or two, but as of now, we haven't officially cleared any of those areas.”
Three of the seven tornadoes that touched down have compounded the storm-damage concentrated in the Holt area, Sexton said.
Out of the 75 confirmed missing persons, 22 have been elevated to a level one status because they were reported by people who had seem them within two weeks of the tornado outbreak Wednesday.
“We will continue to look for those individuals,” Sexton said. “We'll be bringing in specific cadaver dogs that will be assigned to us that once those areas have been cleared and there's a family or individual that is still missing, as the investigators are out working, we will continue to search those areas just to make sure.”
Holt Elementary, destroyed in the storm, will be relocated to Lloyd Wood Middle School in Northport, Al., McCollum said.
Transportation for the students has been provided, he said.
The McAbee Activity Center on Loop Road near the VA Medical Center in Tuscaloosa will be the volunteer registration center for the disaster relief effort by Saturday, said LaDonnah Roberts, coordinator for Tuscaloosa area volunteer resources.
Volunteers as well as volunteer organizations will need to be registered, credentialed and assigned from the McAbee Center, she said.
Although the news of Osama bin Laden's death has displaced Tuscaloosa from national front-page media coverage, the daily press conferences from the city will help renew attention to Tuscaloosa's plight.
“Clearly, with Tuscaloosa no longer being in the national media, I believe it can present a problem in terms of reminding the nation that what we face down here is a catastrophe,” Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said. “Within the city of Tuscaloosa, we have a six mile path that in some places is nearly a mile long that obliterated places from the map. We have thousands of people today who are still hurting that are uncertain about their future.”