The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 27, 2011

Rebuilding after tornadoes continues, recovery far from over

The News Courier

— Great progress has been made in the six months since a historic outbreak of storms and tornadoes forever changed the landscape of numerous Alabama communities. To date, approximately $530 million in federal funds has been approved to help survivors, businesses, communities and the state of Alabama rebuild safer and stronger. More than $1.77 million in FEMA grants have been disbursed in Limestone County.

While grants are still being processed, officials with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency say long-term recovery is now the focus.

“We've come a long way in cleaning up and rebuilding our communities because of the spirit and resilience of the people of this great state,” said AEMA State Coordinating Officer Jeff Byard in a press release. “And now people in many of these communities are contributing their voices, their ideas to the long-term recovery of their neighborhoods and towns.”

Kaye Young McFarlen, director of the Athens-Limestone United Way couldn’t verify how many residents had chosen to rebuild damaged homes, but said almost all families impacted by the tornadoes have a recovery plan.

“For some families, they’ve decided to go into rental situations, some are rebuilding and some have relocated,” she said, adding that United Way had served at least 255 families following the disaster. “Almost everyone we’ve worked with has a plan, and most of them are really good recovery plans.”

To date, almost a dozen Alabama communities have requested assistance in their long-term recovery planning, and around 40 related public meetings have taken place across the state.

More than 8,000 individuals and families have been provided rental assistance or shelter in temporary mobile homes. The state and FEMA continue working with survivors still receiving temporary housing assistance to help them locate a permanent place to live.

Still, for some survivors, more assistance is sometimes needed. That's where Long-Term Recovery Committees come in.

With support and guidance from the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and FEMA, LTRCs coordinate scores of volunteer and service agencies whose case managers help storm survivors across the state.

Storm survivors who need specific assistance should dial 2-1-1 to reach Alabama's social services referral network to request help from the LTRC in their communities. 

As recovery work continues across Alabama by survivors, volunteers, the private sector, and local, state and federal agencies, officials encourage everyone to learn from this disaster and be better prepared for future events.

“As far as we've come in six months, this mission is far from over,” said Byard.

“That is why it is imperative for the AEMA staff and the rest of Alabamians not to forget the lives lost as a result of the April 27 storms and the April 15 storms. Each of us can honor the memory of the victims by making sure our friends, family members and neighbors take severe weather preparedness seriously.”