Taking a look now at the track of the tornado… As bad as things are, it could have been far worse. The tornado, as far as I can tell, bore several degrees to the east as it approached the Alabama campus. If it had been even a couple of degrees less, it might have gone up Paul Bryant Drive rather than 15th Street. The latter is, or was, a main road but mostly businesses. Bryant Drive goes through the eastern part of the Alabama campus. Although the center of gravity of the campus has shifted somewhat since my day, more toward the river on the west, there are two major dorms (Tutwiler Hall and Burke Hall) and the athletic dorm (Bryant Hall, naturally) that would have been in its path.
Moreover, if it had gone just a little bit to the west, it very well could have hit Druid City Hospital, which is located where Bryant Drive merges into University Boulevard; as it was, the tornado must have almost clipped the hospital, as many of the destroyed homes and apartment complexes are all but in the hospital’s shadow. DCH is the major hospital in the area, and the only real trauma center in the county. If it had been knocked out, in addition to whatever loss of life there was in the hospital itself the city’s rescue efforts would have been crippled, with only the smaller satellite hospital in Northport available this side of Birmingham.
It doesn’t really help, I guess, but it really could have been much worse.
The city right now is kind of odd. Most of the power is back on, and most of the city is now relatively normal. But there’s a big hole in the middle of town right now. You can circle around it… but the main shopping district for the city is closed, and much of it is gone. City workers are doing a great job at something that’s really not what they were trained for. It’s going to be a while before we find a new normal.