After a devastating blow nine months ago, citizens in Alabama suffered another bout of nature’s wrath this month. This time it was tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and hail that wreaked havoc.
A state of emergency was declared for all 67 counties, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley recently toured the worst-hit communities. The most extensive damage was in Jefferson and Chilton counties near Birmingham in the middle of the state.
The city of Clay experienced the most loss of property. The tornado went through the Paradise Valley, Georgebrook, Steeplechase, Rosewood, and Twin Lakes subdivisions. Local residents had to show proof of residency to be allowed into disaster areas.
“Our city is about 10 miles long and 3 miles wide, and about 8 miles of it was affected by the tornado, destroying 375 to 400 homes. Some homes look like a pile of rubble consisting of several homes together,” said Clay Mayor Ed McGuffie.
Churches and other organizations set up food stations and shelters, and the Mayor said they were expecting about 1,600 to 1,700 volunteer workers to help with the cleanup.
Clay City Hall staff member Andrea, who did not give her last name, said, “No one has left the office since this has happened and we are flooded and bombarded with phone calls from people, businesses, contractors, etc.”
County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens said Jefferson County officials were trying to determine the cleanup cost. They have considered pulling money from the $60 to $70 million budgeted for their day-to-day operations. Close to $14 million was spent last April in Jefferson to clear and rebuild after tornadoes.
“I urge Alabamians to heed weather warnings to protect their families, homes, and businesses,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement. “The severe weather outbreak of last year is still fresh on our minds and is a reminder that we must take the threat of severe weather seriously.”
The governor said emergency and state agencies are continuing to monitor for severe weather and are on call and ready to assist communities.
On Jan. 24, city leaders gathered in Pratt City to receive millions in federal funding for the rebuilding efforts following the tornadoes of April 27, 2011. Jefferson County will receive $14 million in federal post-storm aid, Birmingham will receive $6.38 million in Community Development Block Grants, while Jefferson County expects $7.84 million and Tuscaloosa, $16.63 million.