NOAA releases aerial imagery of Tuscaloosa, AL tornado damage

Before and after imagery depicting tornado damage in the vicinity of the intersection of 15th St. E. and McFarland Blvd. E. in southeast Tuscaloosa, AL.

Before and after imagery depicting tornado damage in the vicinity of the intersection of 15th St. E. and McFarland Blvd. E. in southeast Tuscaloosa, AL. The before imagery is courtesy of Google, the after imagery was acquired from an altitude of 5,000 feet above ground level by the NOAA King Air April 29, 2011.

Download PDF here. (Credit: Google – before photo; NOAA – after photo)

NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey dispatched the NOAA King Air 350CER aircraft, equipped with specialized remote sensing equipment, on a mission to collect aerial photography at 5,000 feet from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham, Ala.

These “before and after” shots (pdf to right), taken yesterday afternoon, show damage caused by last week’s tornado near 15th Street and McFarland Boulevard in Tuscaloosa.

Photos will be used to assist federal and local officials in response and recovery efforts.

Hi-Res images available online.

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Brian H
May 2, 2011 1:36 pm

Amazing what gentle breezes can do when they get excited.

May 2, 2011 2:04 pm

Of course it is looks bad but it looks even worst at this time of the year when the trees don’t have canopies.

May 2, 2011 2:21 pm

I feel sorry for the poor people who have has their homes destroyed,

May 2, 2011 2:37 pm

Its an horrific sight. That all those homes can be obliterated so easily, so mechanically. Under such conditions even the best of plans must only marginally increase any chances of survival. My heart truly goes out to those involved.

May 2, 2011 2:45 pm

Hard to view without feeling great sadness for all those who died and injured in an instant and thinking of those left behind. Having to live in a state of chaos and disaster. Not only have these people lost loved ones, homes, businesses and likely even jobs but everything one normally does, or sees, or goes to regularly, or visits, or utilizes – all gone or ripped to shreds and you have to look at this every day now, nothing will be the same or normal for quite a while at least.
Hope storm cellars or basements are a serious consideration for the rebuilds in these regions, cement is pretty cheap compared to your life.
Had the same feelings when I viewed the pictures of Japan and looksit’s far worse there.

May 2, 2011 2:55 pm

Ray says:
May 2, 2011 at 2:04 pm
Of course it is looks bad but it looks even worst at this time of the year when the trees don’t have canopies.

At this latitude and time of the year, there would be a fairly decent canopy were there trees left to have any leaves.

Leon Brozyna
May 2, 2011 3:15 pm

Gary — you’re quite right. At this time of year the South is normally quite lovely with plenty of green foliage. Those pictures don’t even begin to drive home how bad it is. Saw a couple homes with the famous blue tarps in place and a few roofs that had their shingles stripped off. And still standing homes across the street from a pile of splinters.

May 2, 2011 4:00 pm

Pacific North West, Kitsap peninsula, across Puget Sound from N. Seattle. Alders well leaved out, Indian Plum bloomed 2 mos. ago, Big leaf Maples in bloom, leaves still in bud. It is looking very spring like even if the weather can’t let go of late winter.

Paul in Sweden
May 2, 2011 4:01 pm

In other photos that have been posted on the net, I saw the clear path of the tornadoes where they stripped trees bare of leaves and branches. Brown dirt and rubble in the path and green trees and homes on either side.

Stevo lane
May 2, 2011 4:08 pm

So… Who gets to wear the “i shot Osama” T-shirt?? !!

May 2, 2011 7:33 pm

To all: Thanks for the concern expressed here and elsewhere. I’ve driven through these areas in the last two days.
@Ray – If you look at any of the other lower aerial shots or the helicopter videos you can see that there is plenty of canopy outside the affected areas. Just look at the post that Anthony did earlier about the AQUA satellite image of the scars left by the tornadoes.
I’ve also seen some snarking from our European friends about the construction of the homes. Many of these homes, particularly in the Forest Lake and Alberta area date back to the WWII and immediate post-war era. They’re certainly not as old as many places in Europe, however, Europe isn’t accustomed to such things as EF5 tornadoes either. The Krispy Kreme donut shop and the Full Moon Barbeque were both solidly built cinder block constructions. Full Moon was completely wiped off of its concrete slab. My brother-in-law who had to walk in to the Alberta area to check on relatives saw some areas that were completely scraped clean of grass and topsoil. Please consider that the forces at work in a tornado of this magnitude are well beyond what most of us ever see or really comprehend.
The NWS and area TV/radio meteorologists did a FANTASTIC job of warning us! Make no mistake, this was well documented and warned. That said, it still only provided a maximum of 15 minutes or so, much less for the beginning of the track, for people to get to safety. The thing is, what is safe? Many who were killed or injured were in their designated “safe place”. But when you live in a 1000 sq. ft. one story home that is subsequently scrubbed off the face of the earth, where are you going to go??!! Even the elementary school in Alberta was so severely damaged that if there were students present, it would have been horrific with the potential deaths and injuries.
I suppose that maybe I’ve just got a bit of thin skin with respect to some of the comments I’ve seen. Please pardon this diatribe, as I know many who now have little to nothing of material possession. Thing is, this was just one of many. These stories are repeated every time this happens somewhere. Even tonight, the same results are occurring from flooding: families displaced, homes wiped away, possessions and loved ones lost. This is the human condition. Will we be truly human in response? Based on the number of volunteers who are at work around here, you better believe it! If I relied solely on internet comments, not so much.
Anthony and moderators, thanks for all your work and keeping this a civil and (relatively) polite place for discussion. Cheers. And thanks, again, for the concern and prayers.
PB in Tuscaloosa, AL

May 2, 2011 8:51 pm

Ray says:
May 2, 2011 at 2:04 pm
Of course it is looks bad but it looks even worst at this time of the year when the trees don’t have canopies.
Regardless…this is Alabama, dude. The trees are in full canopy at this time.
Your “point” is the stupidest red herring I have heard….in a long time.
Canopy or not….287 MPH will destroy or remove canopies….trees….roots….and ****ing topsoil.
Norfolk, VA, USA

May 2, 2011 9:05 pm

PB-in-AL says:
May 2, 2011 at 7:33 pm
You are being too nice. Let me cut through the chase for you.
All of the snarks….who have no remote idea of the instantaneous and extreme destruction of a the most violent vortex on earth….an EF5…have no right to speak….or a right even to opinion.
If they continue with their snarks…without apology…then they are idiots beyond comprehension.
That is the truth. Let the measure of a man (or woman) be in his/her acknowledgment of the truth.
There is no instantaneously destructive monster of the air on this earth, as a violent tornado. It is the atmospheric equivalent (in instant destructive power) of a tsunami.
I will post this video again and again.
Will the snarks please produce video of this extreme physical anomaly…occurring in their country?
Let’s see it.

Norfolk, VA, USA

May 2, 2011 9:13 pm

The Tuscaloosa news is running a before and after picture feature like we saw with the Japanese tsunami. There’s a slider bar in the middle which you can move back and forth to see the before and after photos superimposed. There are links to other shots beneath the first picture on the front page. Definitely worth looking at.
Tuscaloosa New – Before and after
And, yes, by the end of April the South is pretty well leafed out (it’s practically summer). If there’s no canopy, then there were no trees there to begin with, or there were trees but there are no branches left to attach the leaves to.

Toby G
May 3, 2011 6:21 am

soooo tornado country and lets see what I should build my house out of… wood and plaster anyone.

Theo Goodwin
May 3, 2011 6:27 am

PB-in-AL says:
May 2, 2011 at 7:33 pm
I share your feelings for the people who are suffering from the tornadoes, especially in your area. Many of my ancestors lived in Pleasant Grove, Elyton, Hueytown, Bessemer, and southwest Jefferson county. Mark Goodwin arrived about 1830 and was instrumental in founding Mudd Creek Baptist Church. Many of my relatives are there now.
For those who do not know the Deep South, green-up is around April 1. When I moved to St. Louis, I was shocked to find that green-up is around May 1. To this day, if I am in St. Louis on April 15, I am disappointed.

May 3, 2011 9:09 am

As others have remarked, look slightly left of center at the grass field just above the parking lot. Even the grass along w/some topsoil has been scrubbed off (there still is grass present just “above” that area).
Some of the tornado videos I have show where asphalt roads have been similarly “scrubbed” down to subsoil. So lying flat on the ground won’t help in the strongest tornadoes — you, asphalt, grass & soil can be stripped off & flung up into the wind.
Rather shockingly, the “blue tarp” just to the left of the field suggests that particular house remained, except for the roof, mostly intact, right next the the worst damage. There was prb’ly a counterflow from a vortex that reduced the wind at that spot (wind direction opposite to the forward motion of the vortex)..

May 4, 2011 8:46 am

in VA – Thanks for your support. Yes, I’m making an effort to be particularly polite, as I’d rather make my point than lambast someone; I have been sorely tempted, though!
@Toby G – you obviously didn’t read my previous post. I would surmise that even a poured concrete building would have suffered at the wrath of this. One can’t live in a fully enclosed solid block of concrete.
@Theo – I hope that any relatives you might still have in the area are ok.
Things are starting to get, well, normal-ish, at least for those of us who didn’t get any damage. Thanks again, all, for the well wishes!

Paul in Sweden
May 12, 2011 2:55 pm

PB-in-AL says:
May 2, 2011 at 7:33 pm
I’ve also seen some snarking from our European friends about the construction of the homes.

PB, with all the roof collapses throughout Europe due to snow this past winter, Europeans have no leg to snark on. Glad you rode out the storms 🙂

Jewell Busick Mt. Airy, NC. 27230
May 18, 2011 2:28 pm

My heart breaks for these people. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

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