This Saturday will mark eight years since an EF4 tornado hit Tuscaloosa, and a lot has changed since then.

The April 27, 2011, tornado destroyed many homes and businesses, leaving thousands of lives changed in an instant. Tuscaloosa’s Alberta area was one of the hardest-hit communities, but Habitat for Humanity stepped in to help residents who were left without homes.

“With the help of over 26,000 volunteers and our homeowners, we have been able to rebuild Juanita Drive and much of the Alberta community and then homes all over our city and then also in Northport,” said Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Ellen Potts.

Since the tornado, Habitat for Humanity has acquired 35 lots on Juanita Drive. Volunteers and home builders have completed 30 of those since the storm.

“Every single one of our Habitat homes here in Tuscaloosa has a tornado safe room,” Potts said. “And that gives a lot of our families, especially those who have gone through the storm, it gives them a lot of peace of mind.”

All homes on Juanita Drive are built to the “fortified gold standard.” Potts said the structure is extremely durable and can withstand harsh weather conditions.

“Some of our construction crew went to South Carolina and worked with other Habitat affiliates,” Potts said. “They built one of our homes in a wind tunnel in South Carolina. They turned the winds up to 155 mph three times and they were unable to knock the structure down or have any significant damage to the structure.”

The houses also have metal roofs that have a guaranteed life expectancy of 50 years. Although homes are still under construction in the Alberta community, the end is in sight.

Since the tornado, Habitat for Humanity has successfully built 71 houses and repaired 155 homes.

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