Posted by: Michael Byrne, Federal Coordinating Officer and Jeff Byard, State Coordinating Officer, Ala.
Today, June 27, marks two months since severe storms and tornadoes – some with wind speeds of more than 200 mph – struck hard. It was a catastrophe unlike any other. Tragically, 241 Alabamians were killed. Thousands were left homeless.
Our records show that more than 83,200 disaster survivors have applied for financial assistance from state and federal agencies. Think about that. That’s more than the total population of many good-sized Alabama communities.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency was in touch with the governor and the state director of emergency management even before the storms hit. After the president declared most of Alabama a major disaster area, we moved quickly to meet immediate and long-term needs. Disaster recovery centers opened. Community relations teams hit the streets to talk to survivors. Inspectors assessed damages to homes and businesses. Rebuilding specialists set up displays in home improvement stores. More than $100 million has been approved in federal grants and low-interest disaster loans.
Phil Campbell, AL, May 14, 2011 -- FEMA Community Relations Specialists Laura Philpot and Tom Violette speak with a storm survivor in front of his former home. FEMA Community Relations canvass each storm stricken area to be sure everyone receives information on how to apply for FEMA assistance to recover from the deadly April tornado.
Significant progress is being made. Not only because of the efforts of FEMA and other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but due to the cooperation of the entire team – the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, state and local responders, nonprofit organizations, private businesses and individuals who were on the ground within hours following the disaster.
And our work continues.
Recovery officials estimate that the tornadoes and storms left behind a total of 10 million cubic yards of debris. That’s enough material to fill the equivalent of 67,000 18-wheelers. And if those trucks were lined up one behind the other they would stretch all the way from Mobile to Nashville and halfway back again.
But no task is too daunting when we work together as a team. As part of the federal response effort 70 percent of all the debris has been removed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, private contractors and force account labor. We’re especially pleased that most of the Corps’ subcontractors are from Alabama.
With an eye toward planning for future natural disasters, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and FEMA hosted a Safer Alabama Summit at the University of Alabama. Participants included state and local officials, financial organizations, contractors, builders, engineers, academic and scientific departments and organizations, insurance companies and trade associations. It was estimated that nearly 300 attended and there is great interest in safe rooms and community shelters.
Governor Robert Bentley also has established a Long-Term Community Recovery Partnership to work on issues of housing, economic development, natural resources, health and social services and community planning. Local elected officials, nonprofit leaders and educators are among those who are participating.
Meanwhile, FEMA’s voluntary agency liaison specialists are working to ensure the smooth creation and operation of Long Term Recovery Committees at the county level. The committees coordinate help provided by voluntary agencies and generous donors for filling the gaps between needs and government assistance. Priorities include financial assistance, storage and distribution of donations, emotional and spiritual support, mud and debris cleanup, minor home repairs, and rebuilding.
On behalf of the state and federal recovery specialists who have mobilized here, we offer our deepest condolences to the families who suffered the loss of a loved one, as well as our thoughts and prayers for those who sustained catastrophic damage to their homes. By working together to face the tremendous challenges currently facing the state, and doing our jobs with commitment, courage and compassion, Alabama’s recovery will continue. We’re in it for the long haul.
For the latest on Alabama recovery efforts, visit the disaster page.