Former Cullman Mayor Max Townson on city’s recovery since 2011 tornadoes


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CULLMAN, Ala. (WIAT) — The city of Cullman was another area that felt unprecedented pain on April 27, 2011.

In the years since the EF-4 tornado leveled parts of the town, former Cullman Mayor Max Townson says it was the residents that brought the area back from the rubble it became. He says if there were to be a silver lining to that tragic day, it’s that Cullman and its residents have come back stronger.

It was a day of horror in Cullman.

An EF-4 tornado came through Cullman on April 27, 2011 leaving a damaged city behind.

“The streets were impassable, we had to close the streets,” Mayor Townson said. “This was the area that we determined was ground zero because from here over, all these buildings were destroyed.”

April 27, 2011 was a day that left the city, and so much of the state, unprecedentedly shaken.

A look at the damage from the 2011 storms.

“We’ve had tornados in Cullman before,” he said. “One came through in 1974 and it did not do that much damage to downtown. That was the shocking aspect of this tornado.”

Townson, at the time of the devastating storms, said it was the care for one another that brought Cullman back to its feet.

“I think it’s the resilience of the citizens and the way they came together as a community,” Townson said. “People were cooking out, people were feeding people. It was amazing.”

An example Townson gave of the resilience following the EF-4 tornado, Cullman resident Shane Quick, a concert organizer and founder of the annual Rock the South music festival, suggested an impromptu benefit concert. Within four days of the storms, hundreds from around the area gathered to enjoy music from Christian Rock group, Casted Crown, and donate toward rebuilding their homes.

A photo of the crowd gathered to pray and enjoy music together at the benefit concert.

Townson said it’s that resilience and unity that made it possible for Cullman to look how it does today.

“We’ve got new shopping centers, new businesses, we’ve got businesses that are refurbished, so our downtown area is very vibrant and alive,” he said. “I think it has a lot to do with rebuilding from the tornado.”

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