Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Mayor Walt Maddox: Search and rescue still the priority

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox urged students and citizens to stay patient, conserve water, volunteer and stay out of the damaged areas of the city in an emergency city council meeting on Thursday.

Maddox also said that the recovery effort, when it began, would be a long and hard journey, but finding and aiding those who have been hurt or killed took priority.

“We are in an urgent phase of search and rescue,” Maddox said. “That is, right now, our primary responsibility. We will not begin to shift over to a recovery phase until we are absolutely certain that everyone who is missing is accounted for.

“This going to be a very, very long process. The amount of damage that is done is beyond a nightmare.”

The mayor, who viewed the damage in the city this morning from a helicopter, roughly estimated the damage to property would cost tens of millions of dollars.

Maddox praised the city council for its monetary stewardship and accredited the efficiency of the city’s response to years of carefully saving money. He also thanked citizens and students for their resiliency, determination, and willingness to help those in need but also said that for the next day or so, the best thing people can do is be patient and stay out of the way.

The mayor said safety risks like downed power lines and the possibility of gas leaks prohibit student and citizen volunteers from directly assisting people in the devastated area. Maddox and members of the city council said that until those factors were taken care of, the best contributions concerned community members could make were conservation of water and staying away from the damaged areas, especially those who are just curious about the range of damage.

“If you do not need to be in an area, do not be there,” Maddox said.

The council said that people especially needed to avoid taking McFarland Boulevard into Tuscaloosa, even if they were seeking supplies or gasoline.

“If you’re going to come anywhere through Tuscaloosa to try to get to the interstate, go through downtown and Lurleen Parkway to do that,” said Councilman Lee Garrison of District 4. “Don’t even think of coming across the 82 Bridge [McFarland Boulevard].”

Maddox also said that the city’s ability to respond to the tornado damage had been crippled by the path of destruction the storm took. The city’s emergency management agencies, Red Cross, Salvation Army and environmental services were all severely damaged or destroyed.

“The majority of our fleet, that includes the garbage trash and recycling pick up, is either disabled or destroyed. Very few vehicles will be salvageable, which will complicate clean up effort severely, it will also severely impact garbage pick up and recycling pick up for months.”

The mayor quickly noted that the city was not alone, however. He said that Tuscaloosa was being ably assisted by many municipalities, including Northport, Prattville and Montgomery.

Governor Robert Bentley and the White house have also pledged their full support. The government has mobilized 500 members of the Alabama National Guard to aid the city of Tuscaloosa, a quarter of the 2,000 men assigned to assist the relief effort across the state.

The mayor also said that the phone lines of the city were overloaded in the wake of the devastation but encouraged anyone with requests for the city regarding the debris removal to call and ask. He added that search and rescue efforts would be prioritized over smaller issues like downed trees, but the city would make every effort to help those in need.

Maddox said the best way to get updates regarding the damage was through the city’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

More to Discover