THINKING OF JOPLIN: The tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., May 22 was probably an EF4 with winds nearing 200 mph, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The storm injured hundreds and has killed (as of May 25) at least 123 people. This makes it the single deadliest tornado recorded in America since modern record-keeping began in 1950, surpassing the death toll of a 1953 tornado in Flint, Mich., that killed 116. Alabama storm survivors can relate to the predicament of those in Joplin. “We’re praying for those people,” Tuscaloosa resident Willie Walker told Jay Reeves of the Associated Press (AP). “We know what they’re going through because we’ve been there already.” Walker was busy putting a new roof on his storm-damaged house.
FEDERAL AID: U.S. House Republicans are planning a $1-billion aid package to make sure federal disaster relief money don’t run out, according to Andrew Taylor of the Associated Press May 24. Rep. Robert Aderholt, a Republican from Alabama’s fourth congressional district, said the package would help provide enough money for victims of the Joplin tornado, the recent Mississippi River flooding and the April tornadoes in Alabama.
CLEAN IT UP! Many Birmingham residents, including some in hard-hit Pratt City, are anxious for storm debris to be picked up, according to a May 20 report by Alan Collins of FOX6-TV. “It’s frustrating when you have to deal with this after two weeks,” Pratt City resident Linda Kimbrough tells Collins. Mayor William Bell and the city council have argued about how to pay for the cleanup. Check out Fox 6 at www.myfoxal.com.
HOUSING FIGHT IN CORDOVA: Danny Banks of Cordova in Walker County lives in a tent near the site of his single-wide trailer that was destroyed in the April 27 tornado. According to Val Walton of The Birmingham News May 24, Banks plans to continue living in it, because a city ordinance bans single-wide trailers such as the ones supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Cordova Mayor Jack Scott said the city is enforcing an ordinance designed to improve the quality of new housing. Kathy Watts, who runs a Cordova distribution site, told Walton she understands the ordinance but believes people need shelter: “We have homeless people in the city of Cordova who can’t do better than a FEMA trailer or a single-wide.”
FEMA SEZ: A disaster relief official in Cordova told the Weekly that storm survivors who have a received a letter of denial from FEMA should still talk to agency staff in person at a disaster recovery center. “It could be that [applicants] have not provided insurance information.” FEMA manager Gail Silva said. “It could be a multitude of things, but any time they get a letter they don’t understand or get any information from FEMA they don’t understand, that’s why we’re here.” According to Collins’ Fox 6 report, Gov. Robert Bentley doesn’t like the 15,000 letters sent to storm victims by FEMA and wants the agency to do more to inform people of their options. To register for disaster assistance, survivors can call FEMA at (800) 621-3362 or go to www.disasterassistance.gov.
PULLING TOGETHER: OK, enough bad news and FEMA factoids. I met Jack Donovan, a Pelham-based builder, Saturday, May 7, at a Fultondale donation drop where he and his crew were grilling and giving away about 2500 hamburgers and hot dogs. Donovan was impressed with the way the people of Fultondale, along with some volunteers, were responding to the disaster. “The community has stepped up tremendously here,” Donovan said. “You can’t keep Southerners down. I’m originally from New Orleans, but I’ve been here about 13 years, and you get a bunch of Southerners and a devastation like this happens, they’ll all pull together and help each other out. And that’s what it’s all apart.”
HAIL COLUMBIA! The Columbia (Ky.) Church of Christ has started a relief drive to help storm-ravaged Hackleburg, Al. The church is accepting donations of building supplies, including nails, sheetrock and white paint, as well as monetary contributions. According to Minister Dean Roach at columbiamagazine.com, “Our community has been spared the terrible devastation that Alabama received, but it might be us at another time.” Amen, Preacher.