The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


February 22, 2012

How has Limestone weathered the storms? See Sunday's edition

Editor’s Note: The column below was initially published in the special Progress 2012 edition on Feb. 19, which contained stories of how Limestone County has weathered the economic downtown. Part 2 of the Progress edition will be published Sunday, Feb. 26, focusing largely on storm recovery.

As 2011 began, Limestone Countians had just celebrated the first white Christmas in recorded history. Although tough economic times made it a lean holiday for many families, the pretty snowfall lifted spirits and people were hopeful as the new year began.

On Jan. 9, locals got the first hint that 2011 might be an unusual year. A near-record snowfall shuttered businesses and schools for days — and eventually cost city and county coffers at least $10,000 in cleanup, equipment and overtime. The rare winter storm cost North Alabama about $2 million for snow and ice removal.

But that would pale in comparison to the cost of recovery from the April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak.

Of the 62 tornadoes to hit Alabama that day, seven struck Limestone County.

Cost of April 27 cleanup in Limestone County, coupled with cleanup of damage from three small tornadoes on May 25, was estimated to be from $300,000-$500,000 but FEMA covered 90 percent, leaving the county to pay $30,000 to $50,000. Athens Utilities had a loss of from $450,000-$600,000.

The April 27 tornado outbreak is expected to cost Alabama about $4 billion.

Those costs do not include the impact of increases in utilities from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which spent about $200 million to restring its power grid after April 27.

Despite those hurdles that intensified an already strained economic situation, Limestone Countians remained resilient.

Winter of 2012 began with milder temperatures and some hope that the period of wild weather was over, at least for a while.

So local leaders and residents have turned their thoughts to the future. New businesses have opened in 2012. New industries have begun building facilities. The city and city schools will soon have new headquarters. Schools are expanding.

At the same time, this year will bring new challenges — growth in Madison as it creeps farther into eastern Limestone County, continuing state cutbacks and worsening road conditions.

As in 2011, Limestone County is ready to face this new year with confidence and hope.

Be sure to pick up Sunday’s edition for more Progress 2012 stories.

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Do you think Athens-Limestone County is better prepared than in April 2011 to provide shelter from a major tornado?

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