April 27 a day for reflection in Tuscaloosa

April 27 2011

Tuscaloosa looks a lot different than it did the morning of April 27, 2011. While most cities change their landscapes one block or building at a time, major thoroughfares and neighborhoods alike were torn asunder in mere seconds as an EF4 tornado ripped through the heart of the Druid City.

In many places, there’s little sign of what once was. In others, stark reminders still sit in defiance of 12 years’ worth of progress.

Column A includes a former shopping center that once housed a Big Lots, Planet Fitness, Steak Out and Chuck E. Cheese that now houses an apartment complex hundreds call home, an Aldi, a Texas Roadhouse and Whataburger. Across the street is a fancy shopping complex featuring Fresh Market and PetSmart that was built after the ruins of an entire  neighborhood were cleared away.

Column B’s most prominent member is the boarded-up gas station still standing where it survived on the corner of 15th Street and McFarland Boulevard, across the street from a space once occupied by a Chevron gas station and now where a Full Moon BBQ sits next to a built-back-better Krispy Kreme.

After 12 long years, the Tuscaloosa City Council earlier this month decided on giving the gas station’s owner 60 more days to get things in order. If that doesn’t happen, it’ll get torn down by the city at the owner’s expense.

No matter how you feel about the changed-forever housing and rental market now filled with expensive apartments owned by companies out of state, marketed toward college students and rented out by the bedroom, the constant road work or the plethora of new things still ahead, there’s a lot Tuscaloosans can be proud of a decade and change removed from tragedy.

Since that day, the Tuscaloosa River Walk has undergone several major expansions — and more are coming. Major roads like McFarland Boulevard aren’t quite as frustrating for drivers as they once were, and downtown Tuscaloosa can be downright zippy if your timing’s right. The Alberta area built itself back even better, with major new construction including the Tuscaloosa Gateway Innovation and Discovery Center, Alberta School of Performing Arts and restaurants and shopping both local and franchised.

As we remember the lives lost and honor a city that will always bear the scars of tragedy, so too can we celebrate how far we’ve come.

Here’s a look at some of the major post-April 27, 2011, stories from WVUA 23 over the years, showcasing Tuscaloosa’s resilience and reflections.

Faces of the Storm: 10 Years Later

On April 27, 2021, WVUA 23 aired “Faces of the Storm: 10 Years Later,” an hour-long special dedicated to the 10-year anniversary of the tornado.

Here are a selection of stories from that special still worth reading today:

2017 – 2020 stories

Faces of the Storm: Five Years Later

On April 27, 2016, WVUA 23 aired “Faces of the Storm: Five Years Later,” an hour-and-a-half long special dedicated to the five-year anniversary of the tornado.

Here are a selection of stories from that special still worth reading today:

Faces of the Storm

In November 2011, WVUA 23 aired “Faces of the Storm,” an hour-long special dedicated to the victims of the April 27, 2011, tornado.

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