Tornado Outbreak anniversary, Committee approves bill dividing BP settlement

Apr 27, 2016

It was on this date five years ago when a super tornado outbreak hit parts of west and west-central Alabama in 2011.

Over fifty people were killed in the city of Tuscaloosa and twelve percent of the town was destroyed. 

Tuscaloosa’s Acting Planning Director Phillip O’Leary spent the first hours after the tornado in his office. When he finally visited the damage zone, one thing stuck with him…

“I remember standing beside by where Krispy Kreme stood, and I could smell the donuts, but the building was rubble. And, I can still remember that smell today, and I still have that feeling.”

Join the APR news team tonight at seven p.m. for our special presentation, Legacy of the Storm. You can also go to apr.org to hear Alabama Public Radio’s eight part series on the fifth anniversary of the tornado outbreak.

The House budget committee approves a compromise bill dividing state settlement money from the BP oil spill.  It will use the money to pay off state debts and pay for road projects in coastal counties.

The proposal would also help close most of a gap in next year's Medicaid budget.

The bill would monetize the settlement by selling bonds.  Much of the money, nearly $450 million, would pay back money borrowed during past budget shortfalls.  An estimated $191 million would go for road projects at the coast.

Budget Chairman Steve Clouse says the plan would free up $55 million for Medicaid. Medicaid officials says they needed $85 million more to maintain services next year.

Alabama’s rivers and lakes are being cleaned up one body of water at a time. This week volunteers are gathering at Smith Lake to help clean up.

The cleanup is in coordination with the Renew Our Rivers. It’s one of the Southeast’s largest river cleanup campaigns. Since 2000 volunteers have collected more than 14 million pounds of trash and debris.

Jim *Eason is the president of the Western County Smith Lake Advocacy. He says that there are many reasons to keep the lake clean ranging from the aesthetics to the activities that occur on the lake…

“Well it affects an awful lot of people whether you own property on the lake, whether you fish, whether you swim, you know, whatever activity that you have. Smith Lake is not a lake that is used for drinking water, but as far as the looks of a lake it just enhances it tremendously.”

The cleanup will be happening this week from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Clear Creek Recreation Area.  Volunteers are asked to wear comfortable clothes and closed-toe shoes.