Tons of ice meant to help tornado victims in hard-hit Tuscaloosa County sat melting in the parking lot of an industrial park Tuesday, miles from the distribution sites where people were picking up food, water and other supplies.
County officials said the ice was provided by the Alabama Emergency Management Agency but wasn't needed as relief efforts wound down. Workers unloaded about eight trucks full of 10-pound bags of ice and left thousands of them on pallets at the industrial park.
Blue tarps covered some of the ice, which was quickly turning to water under a sunny sky with temperatures in the upper 80s. But much of it sat exposed, with the huge pile getting a little smaller each hour.
"The ice sitting out there is the property of the state of Alabama, and that's what they state elected to do with it," said Billy Green, deputy emergency management director for the county.
Green said he didn't know exactly how much ice was left to melt or the cost, and state emergency management spokeswoman Yasamie August said the price wasn't immediately available. Some ice still is being distributed in the parking lot, she said.
"Taking the ice off the refrigerated truck is a cost saving measure for the state," August said in an email.
Tornadoes that killed more than 300 across the South on April 27 left wide areas without power, creating a large demand for ice. In Tuscaloosa, some areas never lost electrical service and utility crews restored it to all but the hardest-hit areas within days.
Green said the demand for ice dropped quickly once stores reopened, and relief workers gave away as much as they could at aid stations spread out across the city. Truckloads of ice were left over, however, he said, and the state decided to leave it in the parking lot.
"The need is not there. The resources outnumbered us," he said.
Workers at a large aid station in the Alberta City community of Tuscaloosa said they'd had trouble getting ice on-and-off during the crisis, but drink coolers were full of cold drinks as volunteer Laura Rice worked in a cooking area.
"We've got a truck full of ice," she said.