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The University of Alabama

UA in the News: April 27-May 4, 2011

News coverage related to the April 27 tornado, presented in chronological order:

Univ. of Alabama opens help line after storm
MSNBC – April 27
Parents of University of Alabama students who are concerned about their students, and UA students who need information about where to go this evening can call the UA Emergency Call Center at 1-205-348-1001 or Toll-Free 1-877-408-1001.  Also, parents and students can get updated information by going to  Updated information will be posted on UA’s Homepage throughout the evening.

Christopher England (UA Athletics) Interviewed by Anderson Cooper
CNN – April 27
England interviewed about the video he shot of the tornado.

Violent tornado leaves path of destruction in West Alabama
Tuscaloosa News – April 28
…As of Wednesday night, the Belk Activity Center and University of Alabama Rec Center had been confirmed as shelters. UA officials stressed that the Rec Center was for students who are homeless, not those who are without power. The University of Alabama and the University of West Alabama will be closed today in the wake of Wednesday’s storms. Neither school had made a decision when they would resume classes. UA spokeswoman Cathy Andreen said Wednesday night that “essential personnel should report to work as directed by their supervisors. Any UA employee who has experienced personal hardships as a result of the tornado should notify their supervisors.”…

Univ. of Alabama opens help line after storm (Birmingham) – April 28
Parents of University of Alabama students who are concerned about their students, and UA students who need information about where to go this evening can call the UA Emergency Call Center at 1-205-348-1001 or Toll-Free 1-877-408-1001.  Also, parents and students can get updated information by going to  Updated information will be posted on UA’s Homepage throughout the evening.

University of Ala. students die in storms (Associated Press) – April 28
The president of the University of Alabama says 2 of the school’s students are among those dead after storms pummeled the state. University president Robert Witt confirmed Thursday that two students were among the dead in Tuscaloosa, which was hit especially hard as tornadoes carved a path of destruction across the South. More than 250 people died as the storms moved across six states, including at least 180 in Alabama.

U. of Ala. students hold vigil for tornado victims (Associated Press) – April 28
Nearly 100 University of Alabama students gathered on the steps of the main campus library to pray for the victims of the tornado that destroyed parts of their city of Tuscaloosa. Earlier, university President Robert Witt confirmed two students are among the dead. Most students in T-shirts and jeans and weary after a day without power broke into small groups to pray together Thursday. Nearby, some snapped tree branches remained on the ground. The university of more than 30,000 students also announced Thursday that commencement has been moved to Aug. It also canceled next week’s final exams.

UA copes with power outage, no reports of structural damage
Tuscaloosa News – April 28
University of Alabama officials say power outages at the school are widespread, but they have no reports of structural damage to buildings on campus after a storm swept through the city. University officials say parts of Tuscaloosa where many off-campus students live were damaged, however. They have made the Student Recreation Center available to students whose off-campus residences are damaged.. School spokeswoman Cathy Andreen said the storm swept through Tuscaloosa very close to the campus Wednesday afternoon. Andreen said by phone that electricity was out in the building where she works.

Crimson Tide athletes impacted by storm
Tuscaloosa News – April 28
…Conrad Tinker, a walk-on long snapper on the UA football team from Murfreesboro, Tenn., was hospitalized with a fractured wrist and concussion. Ashley Harrison, a member of the Phi Mu sorority from Dallas who was in the house with Tinker when the tornado hit, was killed.…The e storm’s impact reverberated throughout the UA athletic department. “While our primary efforts today are at determining the safety and status of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and employees, I want to send to all members of our community our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” UA Director of Athletics Mal Moore said Thursday in a statement. “As the recovery efforts progress today and through the weekend, I know there are difficult moments ahead. But I want to affirm today our support for our state, our community and the city of Tuscaloosa.” Saban addressed UA students at the Ferguson Center on campus, and encouraged volunteers elsewhere. “The work that people are doing is appreciated and vital at this time,” he said in a statement. “As important as what is being done is, sometimes just the presence and support while helping someone serves as vital encouragement. Being a part of the University of Alabama team is helping people when they need it. “It’s not always about just being there on Saturday. A lot of people are doing everything they can to help others. Everyone needs to be patient and understand that communication is a real problem right now. What people are trying to do is very much appreciated and is really helping.”…

Law school recovering from massive tornado
The National Law Journal – April 28
Law students at the University of Alabama School of Law were hunkered down and studying on Wednesday — the first day of final exams — when a tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa and skirted the university campus at around 5 p.m. All of the school’s 510 students were accounted for by Thursday morning, but administrators and student leaders scrambled to help classmates and colleagues whose homes, apartments, cars and other property had been destroyed…The law school building sustained no damage, said Dean Kenneth Randall, but the power remained out as of noon on Thursday. Some lights and other essentials were running off auxiliary generators….Shortly thereafter, students and administrators began organizing and finding ways to help each other. Some students stayed in the law school all night, either because their homes had been destroyed or because roads were closed to all but emergency response vehicles. Students and faculty created a list of people with space available to take in displaced classmates…

Tuscaloosa News – April 29
The University of Alabama has canceled final exams scheduled for next week. Students will have the option of accepting their current grades as of April 27, or can take the final exam at a later date. For those students who request to take a final exam, faculty will have the option of scheduling the final exam on site when normal operations resume or via distance education. The schedule change includes all enrolled students except those in the schools of law and medicine. Their academic calendars vary and they should be in touch with their faculty for their exam schedule. The university’s normal operations are suspended. Commencement exercises scheduled for May 7 have been rescheduled for Aug. 6. Tuscaloosa County Schools will be closed today.

Parents of Alabama students describe helpless feeling as tornado barreled through
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – April 29
John Hill was on the phone with his son, Beau, as a mile-wide tornado that killed 32 people in Tuscaloosa Wednesday night approached. Then, the connection went dead.Repeated calls brought no answer from the University of Alabama junior and Kennesaw Mountain High School graduate. So the Cobb resident got in his truck and headed west…After about five hours, Hill finally reached his son on the phone. Beau and a friend escaped injury by ducking into the clubhouse of their apartment complex, which was left standing amid widespread destruction…Leslie Finley hopes to reunite with her daughter Savannah Thomas, an Alabama sophomore, later this afternoon…Her daughter was huddled, along with her sorority sisters, in the basement of the Zeta Tau Alpha house in the shadow of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Fortunately for them, the Alabama campus was among the safest places to be in Tuscaloosa. The university reported no structural damage…The sophomore won’t have to rush back for final exams, which were canceled Thursday by the university. Commencement ceremonies for graduating students were postponed until Aug. 6.

All student-athletes at UA accounted for
Tuscaloosa News – April 29
All student-athletes at the University of Alabama were accounted for by Thursday afternoon, with only one UA athlete hospitalized in the aftermath of the tornado that ripped through the city on Wednesday. Carson Tinker, a walk-on long snapper on the UA football team, was hospitalized after sustaining a broken wrist and concussion. He is the only one of the 606 UA student-athletes — a number that includes athletes on medical scholarships who are not listed on rosters — who was hospitalized. UA head coach Nick Saban told ESPN on Thursday that Tinker was thrown about 50 yards when his house was hit by the tornado.

Dallas student’s life of promise is ended by ferocious tornado
Dallas Morning News – April 29
Friends remembered Ashley Harrison — a 22-year-old Ursuline Academy of Dallas graduate killed by Wednesday’s tornado in Alabama — as someone destined for greatness…Harrison was days away from graduation at the University of Alabama, where she studied economics. Her family confirmed her death Thursday — after traveling to Tuscaloosa to search for her — and word of the tragedy spread quickly in both Alabama and Dallas…Harrison was just as involved at Alabama, where she was an honor student and active in the Phi Mu sorority…

Draft starts with remembrance of storm victims
Pocono Record (Associated Press) – April 29
…Once NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell mentioned the devastating tornadoes that left a path of death and destruction across the Southeast, the horde of heckling fans fell silent. Joined on stage by Auburn star Cam Newton, Alabama standout Mark Ingram and their college coaches, Goodell began the NFL draft Thursday night by asking for a moment of silence to remember the storm victims…”I’ve challenged our players to get out and do something to help these people,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Be a team.” In Tuscaloosa, Ala., where the University of Alabama campus is located, 32 were killed and 600 were hurt. Among the injured was Crimson Tide longsnapper Carson Tinker — a school spokesman said Tinker was hospitalized in stable condition, without detailing what happened to him…Bryant-Denny Stadium, meanwhile, was turned into a makeshift emergency management center. The city’s regular facility was destroyed by the tornado.

Displaced professors coping with disaster
Crimson White – April 29
Steve Miller, a professor in the school of library and information sciences, Phil Westbrook, the director of Blackburn Institute and Meredith Cummings, professor of journalism are among many University of Alabama professors now trying to pick up the remnants of their belongings after an EF 5 tornado destroyed their homes on Wednesday…

O.C. student: Twister took much of town, missed school
Orange County Register – April 29
Register opinion columnist Mark Landsbaum learned that former O.C. GOP chairman Tom Fuentes’ daughter Michelle was in Alabama during this week’s deadly tornado and interviewed her Friday morning about the events of the past two days. Michelle Fuentes heard the public-address announcement warn that a tornado was bearing down on the Tuscaloosa neighborhood of her dorm at the University of Alabama. She and 40 to 50 other students rushed to huddle in an interior hallway with no glass or windows facing the outside world, where a vicious tornado wreaked havoc. Fuentes, a Ph.D. student and daughter of former Orange County Republican chairman Tom Fuentes, and the other students used laptop computers to follow the devastation sweeping through Tuscaloosa. She and those with her escaped harm. Following the storm, Fuentes reported that her location on the 32,000-student campus was relatively unscathed, suffering a few toppled trees…Fuentes said students were fortunate the tornado didn’t rip through the university residence hall, where many people had sought refuge…

Survivors emerge, fill up local shelters quickly
Tuscaloosa News – April 29
…the University of Alabama sheltered students in the Student Recreation Center. George Brown, executive director for UA Recreation, said the Student Recreation Center officially became a shelter at about 6:15 p.m. Wednesday after the storm hit. “Almost immediately, we began to receive displaced people from the Tuscaloosa community,” Brown said. “Within an hour, the number of people taking shelter there grew from between five and 15 to between 75 and 100.” Brown said between 11:30 p.m. and midnight Thursday, the Rec Center was able to coordinate with Crimson Ride buses and transport between 75 and 80 members of the Tuscaloosa community to the Belk Center, leaving between 60 and 70 UA students at the Rec Center. “We will continue to operate as a shelter as we are needed,” Brown said. “Right now we’re just in wait-and-see mode.”…

Tornado Puts an End to a University’s School Year
New York Times – April 29
From the crimson flags in store windows to the hotels that swell on football weekends, this city lives and breathes the University of Alabama. So when a tornado tore through Tuscaloosa this week — killing at least 36 and leaving hundreds homeless a few miles from campus — shock replaced the excitement that was building for graduation. On Thursday, the university called off the rest of this school year — canceling final exams and the last week of classes, and postponing graduation until August. Although the storm spared the campus itself, the 30,000 students and 5,000 faculty members and staff at the state’s flagship university have felt the toll deeply. Three students have been confirmed dead. At least 80 employees are missing, said officials at Aramark, the campus food service provider. Dozens of homes rented by students have been demolished. And displaced residents are now living on air mattresses in the gymnasium…The administration is advising students to leave campus as soon as possible. Power returned on Friday morning, but water is still not safe to drink. If students want to take exams, they can reschedule them with professors. Otherwise, their grades will stay the same. For seniors planning to graduate on May 7, the cancellation has been sudden and jarring. They are scrambling to tell friends and family to cancel flight reservations. “The end of my whole educational career just got blown away,” said David Kumbroch, 21, a telecommunications and film major, who has no place to live until power returns in Huntsville, Ala., where he was planning to move. “At the end of this, everybody will know somebody who lost their lives or lost everything else.”…The university had no choice but to cancel the school year, said Cathy Andreen, a university spokeswoman. “The city infrastructure really couldn’t even support all of the students being here,” she said…

UA confirms five students killed in storm
Tuscaloosa News – April 30
…University of Alabama spokeswoman Cathy Andreen confirmed that five UA students were killed, but did not release names. UA student Ashley Harrison was previously named as a victim

Tuscaloosa News – April 30
…The University of Alabama will return to normal business operations today. Spring classes, final exams and commencement are still cancelled or postponed as previously announced. Interim, summer and fall classes will begin as scheduled. All summer youth programs will begin as scheduled.

Greeks organize relief efforts
Crimson White – April 30
The Delta Kappa Epsilon Psi Chapter on the University of Alabama campus began asking for frozen foods—anything that can be baked, heated, or cooked—from other fraternity houses and the community to help the fraternity’s disaster relief effort on Friday, junior fraternity member Patrick Morris said Friday morning. By Saturday, the DKE relief operation had expanded to include collection and distribution of clothes, toiletries, and other needs… “Yesterday we were surprised with how much we could actually make an impact with just delivering food, and we knew we could grow,” senior DKE brother and former SGA President James Fowler said Saturday. “Shelters need food and clothes, they need toiletries—that type of supplies. We can collect them here and take them to the centers, and that’s what we’re doing today.” Morris also said around 11 a.m. Friday that the DKE brothers found themselves needing help with the 1000-plus meals they expected to cook on top of the about 400 already delivered…In addition to establishing the DKE house as the “main pantry and logistics center” for the UA Greek Community Relief Efforts, the email gave a list of critical needs, including…

Shelter from the storm
Canton (Illinois) Daily Ledger – April 30
…With loved ones who live in Tuscaloosa, Ala., I have had particular interest in both news of the event and the significance of helping to prepare residents who may face similar storms. I applaud the University of Alabama and both local and national media with their coverage of the storms which guided many to seek shelter. Our gang went to the University of Alabama designated safety location in Tuscaloosa and we are very thankful they were in this group…

Meredith Cummings: Tuscaloosa tornado: Humor, gratitude after the storm
Birmingham News – April 30
…Generations working side-by-side for the good of the people: UA students working side-by-side with 80-year-olds handing out water. It makes me cry…Work productivity: My boss ( I teach journalism at University of Alabama) has been a saint. Her questions have been geared toward, “How can we help?” instead of “Can you finish that grant request?” Fabulous!…

UA launches program to collect funds
Crimson White – May 1
Yesterday, the University of Alabama launched a program to collect funds to support an emergency-assistance program for UA employees and students affected by last Wednesday’s storm. The program, called the UA Acts of Kindness Fund, will be used to provide financial assistance to employees and students who qualify under the guidelines of this emergency-assistance program, according to the fund’s website. The website defines those guidelines, saying they usually are related to loss and damage caused by fire, tornado or other natural disaster or a medical emergency that causes leave without pay. Cathy Andreen, UA director of media relations, said the program may be used to help employees and students pay grocery bills, rent or mortgage payments, electric, gas and medical bills. “This is one of the many ways that people can help provide support to those impacted by Wednesday’s storm,” Andreen said. Andreen said information regarding the amount of money the website has already raised was unavailable, as the website is less than 24-hours old. Decisions regarding the distribution of funds will be made by a committee of UA employees who are appointed by the President. All employee and student cases will be presented anonymously to the UA Acts of Kindness Fund committee for consideration, according to the program’s website…

‘Unable to locate’: The search for Tuscaloosa’s missing
Chicago Tribune – May 1
…Guy said he expected that most of the people now listed as missing would be found. He hoped to pare another 150 names from the list by the end of the day Monday with the help of a computer program created by an information technology team at the University of Alabama…

Charlie Sheen tours tornado devastation in Alabama: Actor plans to hold relief benefit for victims
New York Daily News (Associated Press) – May 2
Actor Charlie Sheen toured an Alabama neighborhood leveled by tornadoes and said Monday he wants to organize a relief event for victims in the state…The actor, wearing a University of Alabama baseball cap, said he decided to visit after receiving an invitation via Twitter from a University of Alabama student. David Harris of Mobile had asked in a tweet April 30 if he would be willing to perform a relief show in Alabama, Sheen said.

Dept. of Mental Health helps tornado relief efforts – May 2
… Additionally, through the collaborative efforts of the University of Alabama Schools of Social Work, Psychology and Medicine, ADMH is providing space for a crisis counseling center at Bryce Hospital

Counselors encourage tornado victims to seek psychological help
Crimson White – May 2
Traumatic events can have lasting effects, which is why the UA Counseling Center and other psychiatrists have stressed the importance of tornado victims to seek help. “It’s extremely important,” said Lee Keyes, the executive director of the UA Counseling Center. “The thing about [post-traumatic stress disorder] is that it can be mitigated. Severe forms can be prevented all together if people get help quickly.” The UA Counseling Center is located across the street from the Law School on Jackson Ave. and is now back to on its regular business hours. Keyes said appointments can be scheduled through the phone, or in more urgent cases, just by walk-ins. He also said for urgent cases that come after business hours, patients can get connected through UAPD, and that the center is willing to meet patients at their current location. According to Keyes, the UA Counseling Center was set up at four different locations after the storm hit, including the Rec Center and their center on Jackson Ave. He estimates that the Counseling Center alone has talked to about 250-300 students since the tornado hit…

Alumni groups find ways to help
Crimson White – May 2
As relief efforts continue throughout Tuscaloosa, alumni and alumni groups from every corner of the country are helping out in any way they can.  Mark Roberts, the Manager of Chapter Development and Special Events for the National Alumni Association, said around 15 alumni groups are either planning or have already held some type of fundraiser since Wednesday’s tornado…

Outlets on and off campus help students find housing
Crimson White – May 2
…The University has already opened up the Rose Towers residence hall for displaced students, faculty and staff, said Alicia Browne, associate director for information and communication for Housing and Residential Communities. “We have housing available in Rose Towers,” she said. “Those who are moving in now are students who lived off campus.” Browne said Housing and Residential Communities is working with each displaced person individually to find the most appropriate housing arrangement for them. Students who need housing for the summer can apply to live in Rose Towers through the normal process on myBama, but will be charged the normal fee for summer housing, she said. Those who need housing can call the Rose Towers desk at 205-348-7559, she said.

Storm claims Priceville woman’s life at UA
Decatur Daily – May 3
…Danielle Downs, 24, would have graduated with a degree in social work May 7 at the University of Alabama. She died Wednesday during the violent string of tornadoes that pulverized Tuscaloosa and several other Alabama cities…Michelle said Robert Witt, the president of the University of Alabama, spoke to the sisters’ mother, Terri, on Friday. “Mother asked him if I could walk for Danielle in her graduation that was postponed until Aug. 6,” Michelle said. “He said, ‘Consider it done.’ ”…

Auburn organizes day trips to Tuscaloosa
Crimson White – May 3
Auburn University has set up a link on their main website entitled “Auburn Relief Efforts,” where students, alumni and faculty can log on to make donations, sign up to volunteer and get the latest information about needs in the communities affected by the tornados last week…Additionally, Auburn University is hosting a series of day trips so that students can volunteer in the areas impacted by the tornados that struck Tuscaloosa and the state of Alabama last week, said Ainsley Carey, vice president for student affairs at Auburn…

Southern twisters hit an economy already hurting
Forbes (Associated Press) – May 3
…”The rebuilding is huge,” said Sam Addy, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama. “That brings in a lot of jobs and cash flow into the local area. For the larger economy, it’s a loss.”…

For ‘Bama Students, A Somber, Sudden End Of Classes
NPR – May 3
…One of last week’s devastating tornadoes slammed into Tuscaloosa. While it largely spared the University of Alabama — the campus itself avoided a direct hit — the storm brought the school year to an abrupt end, and emotional scars remain. Alabama’s campus would normally be bustling right now, but it is eerily quiet. The university has roughly 30,000 students. Six have been confirmed dead…The university has ended the school year early and pushed graduation back to August. Many students, staff and professors live in the nearby neighborhoods that were devastated by the storm.

Economists say tornado outbreak impact could dampen Alabama’s recovery
Birmingham News – May 3
…Last month, University of Alabama economic researcher Ahmad Ijaz lowered projections of state gross domestic production growth for 2011 to 3 percent from 3.5 percent due to the impact of the Japanese tsunami on parts needed at Alabama auto manufacturers and on rising fuel prices. Ijaz said Monday that it is too soon to say what impact the twisters will have on the state economy, but he believes it could hurt. One example: A shutdown at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance began Wednesday morning after the plant was damaged by an EF-3 tornado and lasted through the weekend. “We’re going to take a look at it,” he said. “I’m not sure how bad it is in Jefferson, but Tuscaloosa was hit pretty hard. A lot of businesses along McFarland Boulevard were taken out, and who knows how long it will take to get them back. We will know more the second half of the year.”…

Six UA students included in list of tornado deaths
Tuscaloosa News – May 4
The tornado that gashed Tuscaloosa on April 27 largely missed the University of Alabama campus, but the human toll was heavy. Of the 40 names on the city’s confirmed list of dead, at least eight were college students. Six attended the University of Alabama…Below are the six UA students killed in the April 27 storm: Brandon S. Atterton, 23, Bryant. Majored in economics and finance and legal Studies. Found in Cedar Crest. Danielle M. Downs, 24, Decatur. Majored in social work. Found in Beverly Heights. Ashley T. Harrison, 21, Dallas, Texas. Majored in economics and finance and legal studies. Found in a field near Charleston Square apartments. Melanie N. Mixon, 21, Mulga. Majored in accounting. Found in Charleston Square apartments. Morgan M. Sigler, 23, Bryant. Majored in art and art history. Died at DCH Regional Medical Center. Marcus J. Smith, 22, Richmond, Va. Majored in management information systems. Found in Charleston Square apartments.…in honor of students killed, UA has posted a page on its website listing their names, majors and hometowns, along with a message from UA President Robert Witt. “The University of Alabama expresses its deepest sympathies to those in the Tuscaloosa community who have lost loved ones,” the statement reads. “We especially mourn the loss of members of the UA family. We will continue to move forward as a family.” Mark Nelson, UA’s vice provost and vice president for student affairs, said Tuesday that university administrators, faculty and staff are back at work, sad because of the deaths, but thankful that the losses were not more severe. “I think everyone is still operating on a certain degree of adrenaline right now,” Nelson said. He said a memorial service for the students who died is being planned. “Right now, our campus ministries association as well as some student leaders, faculty and staff are discussing holding a vigil in about a month or so,” Nelson said. “We want to give the city time to take care of the devastation there and give all of the trained aid workers enough room to help with that.

Local economy also damaged by storm, experts say
Anniston Star – May 4
…“It’s definitely going to hurt incomes in the state, there is no doubt about it,” said James Cover, professor of economics at the University of Alabama. Due to the damage, he said, people have lost jobs and businesses have closed.“Add to that high energy prices and things will not be good for a while,” Cover said…Cover added that, though insurance will cover much of the damage, the money to pay for the repairs is not free. “That money has to come from somewhere,” he said. “Insurance rates may go up. That could be largely spread throughout the U.S. and would not hurt much, but if all of the insurance companies’ assets are in Alabama, it could hurt us.”…

Amid the rubble, survivors find sentimental items
Associated Press – May 4
…Searching through the rubble for sentimental items can help the healing process, said Jerry Rosenberg, a psychology professor at the University of Alabama. “The more you can get the more you have a continuity of what was there before the trauma,” Rosenberg said. “And that’s immensely important for the life you’re going to rebuild.”…

Charlie Sheen launches tornado relief website to benefit Alabama victims – May 4
…Sheen visited Tuscaloosa on Monday and met with Mayor Walt Maddox in Alberta City. He also visited the University of Alabama baseball team and said he is considering organizing a celebrity baseball game to raise money and awareness for tornado victims.

Continuing to pick up the pieces
FOX News – May 4
Grant Cochran, president of the Student Government Association at The University of Alabama joined us on the phone today to explain how the recovery effort is going in Tuscaloosa. If you would like to help – click on one of the links below to learn how:
University of Alabama’s Tornado Relief website
UA Acts of Kindness
To volunteer call:
Tuscaloosa Volunteer Hotline: 205 248 5045

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.