I saw the most beautiful and most tragic sights from the air yesterday. The space shuttle was clearly visible, like a flying yellow fire torch, above the clouds in the bright morning blue sky. As it came through the cloud cover, Endeavor was an inspiring sight.

The path of Tuscaloosa’s F5 tornado was also clearly seen from the air and awe inspiring. The magnitude of catastrophic damage viewed from the ground is hard to describe.

Mary Fortson and I accompanied the Windstorm Insurance Network‘s Executive Director, Michelle Griffin, to Tuscaloosa yesterday. The Windstorm Network gave much needed donations to the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. Both are stationed in temporary quarters because their permanent locations were damaged by the tornados.

At the Red Cross operation headquarters, I was shown a Tuscaloosa County map showing the path and breath of each tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa. The F5 was more than a mile wide as it left Tuscaloosa headed for Birmingham. Red Cross officials told us they were lucky to have closed their previous Red Cross office shortly before the F5 hit.

Tuscaloosa tornado damage eerily reminds me of the worst damage from Hurricanes Charlie, Ivan, Katrina and Ike. Hurricanes typically give people some opportunity to evacuate. Tornadoes do not. I cannot imagine the terror felt by those who faced the F5.

Tuscaloosa joins the list of blue tarp towns; tarps now cover hundreds of roofs throughout the city to mitigate further damage. They will remain for months until repaired.

For those wishing to help, here are links to the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.