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Posted Mar 22, 2012

Discovering Alabama: Tornado

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On April 27, 2011, the most powerful line of storms in forty years moved across Alabama from west to east, spawning massive tornadoes that ripped through communities, farms and forests, leaving a wake of death and devastation. Now, as Alabama approaches the anniversary of this disaster, the state’s preeminent documentarian of natural history, Dr. Doug Phillips, offers a personal look at the aftermath of the tornadoes in a new Discovering Alabama special. “Tornado” premieres Thursday, April 5 at 9:30pm on Alabama Public Television and will air several more times during the month of April. In the days following last spring’s tornadoes, the Discovering Alabama crew traveled the state to record the impact. Just two days before the storms, Phillips and crew had been taping a program with a group of elementary students getting a hands-on science lesson on Hurricane Creek near Tuscaloosa. One particularly memorable moment in the documentary juxtaposes this scene of children enjoying the beautiful outdoors with an image of the same creek after the storm — every tree broken on the ground. “It was like that everywhere we traveled,” said Phillips, who calls the forest area south of Tuscaloosa his “main office.” “Landmarks that we were used to were simply gone: the tall tree along the river, the gas station on the corner, the shopping center.” “Tornado” includes excerpts from a long-distance video conference Discovering Alabama conducted for schools following the April 2011 storms. Joining Dr. Phillips were Dr. Jason Senkbeil, Assistant Professor and Director of the Environmental Science Program at the University of Alabama Department of Geography; Dr. Joshua Klapow, Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist at the UAB School of Public Health and a certified disaster mental health specialist; and Jeannie Largin, a teacher at Woodland Forrest Elementary School who lost her own home to the tornado in Tuscaloosa. These participants explain the weather forces that created the powerful tornadoes and how people help each other in the wake of disaster. “The lives rent asunder by this tragedy will never be the same,” says Phillips. “We would fool ourselves to think otherwise. Yet here, too, with each other's support, care, with the love we have for one another, we share the pain of remembering and the hope for tomorrow.” AIRDATES Thursday, April 5 at 9:30pm Sunday, April 8 at 5:00pm Monday, April 9 at 9:30pm Wednesday, April 11 at 7:30pm Friday, April 27 at 10:00pm # # # FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Mike McKenzie 205-451-0123 800-239-5233, ext. 123

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Discovering Alabama host Doug Phillips surveys a landscape after the tornadoes of April 27, 2011.

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Doug Phillips examines a tree shattered by the April 27, 2011 tornado near Tuscaloosa.

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Doug Phillips examines a forest area of shattered by a tornado on April 27, 2011.

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