Just after 5:15 p.m., an EF4 tornado, the strongest tornado to ever hit the Tuscaloosa area, ripped through many parts of the city, killing at least 15.
The tornado reportedly touched down along 15th Street and continued toward McFarland Boulevard, destroying homes and businesses in its path. The tornado did not damage the University of Alabama campus, although it did impact many students.
UA student Adam Melton was in Arlington Square when the tornado tore through midtown.
“We were out on the porch, it wasn’t windy or even raining,” he said. “The people in an apartment across the complex started yelling at us because they could see the tornado coming, we couldn’t, and we immediately ran down to the cellar of a house in the front the complex.
“When it hit, the house lifted up off of us and then a Jeep Cherokee came right over us and hit me in the head. We were underneath of the Jeep on our knees and chest for the end of it. After we got hit, we pulled five or six people out, but, it was gone. The house was gone.”
When Melton climbed out of the rubble, he said he thought he was in a scene from a movie.
“There were people stuck under debris and yelling for help,” he said. “We went over and helped as many as we could, it’s just, everything has been completely demolished. The houses are gone, the business are gone. It’s something that I’ll never be able to forget.”
Gerald Ross, a Tuscaloosa resident living in Buena Vista, located off University Boulevard East, said he and his family were in their kitchen cooking supper when the tornado hit.
“We were watching the coverage of the storm on the television when my son said, ‘Dad, there’s debris flying around outside,’” Ross said. “We all immediately ran down into the basement to take cover.”
His wife, Jannie, said that once the family reached the basement, they could hear everything that was happening outside.
“We could hear debris hitting the side of our house, glass breaking and the train sound often attributed to big storms such as these,” she said. “We could hear it destroying everything outside.”
When the family left their basement, Jannie said what they saw was unbelievable.
“I’ve done relief work with the American Red Cross, but I’ve never actually experienced it firsthand,” she said. “I’m rattled, to say the least.”
Debris from the homes of neighbors and strangers alike lined the Ross’ backyard, and two downed trees, one in the family’s front yard and one in their backyard, left them little room to maneuver outside of their home.
“There’s stuff here I’ve never seen before,” she said. “I don’t know what half of this stuff in my backyard is or who it belongs to.”
As he cut down a fallen tree in the family’s front yard to help allow traffic to pass down Buena Vista, Daniel Ross, the family’s 15-year-old son, said he had never been in a tornado before.
“We’re about to use our truck to break the fallen trees because our chainsaw isn’t big enough,” Daniel said.
Students Julia Israel and Claire Powell were at Crimson Place when the tornado hit.
“We were just watching the coverage on television when James Spann said the tornado was moving into Tuscaloosa,” Israel said. “The he said it was going to be just south of the city, which is where we were, and then the door started to shake, the glass in the windows broke and it felt like our ears were going to explode because of the pressure change. We sprinted into the bathroom, and when we emerged, we couldn’t believe what we saw.
“Where we just were, it was gone.”