BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Nine communities to date have formally requested state and federal community disaster recovery assistance following the outbreak of tornadoes in Alabama.
“The program is still open to other impacted cities that request it,” said Bob Haywood, the FEMA branch director of long-term community recovery for the Alabama disaster.
The long-term community recovery program’s goal is to provide a recovery document that maps out the rebuilding process based on local needs and wants. The plan also advises where funding may be available.
The program is locally driven and draws on the expertise of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and FEMA to help communities plan rebuilding following a major disaster.
The Rainsville City Council unanimously passed a resolution requesting the free assistance at its Monday, July 18 meeting. Cordova, Hackleburg, Phil Campbell, Pleasant Grove, Sipsey and Birmingham on behalf of the Pratt City neighborhood have also requested assistance with long-term community recovery and are in various stages of plan development. In addition, Tuscaloosa County requested assistance for the Holt neighborhood and the city of Tuscaloosa requested assistance for portions of that city damaged by the tornado.
To reach the program goal, a series of meetings are held during which residents identify local issues and needs and develop a community vision. The vision becomes projects that are assigned priorities and included in the recovery document with budget estimates and funding possibilities.
In the case of Rainsville and others, this isn’t the first tornado to hit. Rainsville Mayor Donnie Chandler said the city sustained damage from a 1997 tornado and the city rebuilt. This time, however, the damage was much more significant and, like other cities, beyond Rainsville’s means to recover.
The city chose to work with FEMA and ADECA because “we felt that it might be something that would benefit us in the long range as far as our community goes,” he said. “And, we wanted to try to be as involved as we can.”
Rainsville, with a population of approximately 5,000, was one of the hardest hit cities in Alabama when an EF-5 tornado ravaged the city on April 27. Up to 140 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable. The city’s civic center, schools and businesses were also destroyed.
The tornado is reported to have been on the ground for 37 minutes and covered 33.8 miles. The twister was three-fourths of a mile wide and had an estimated wind peak of 200 mph, leveling homes to their foundations and leaving vehicles and debris strewn for hundreds of feet.
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ADECA administers numerous programs to strengthen Alabama communities and has been named the state coordinator for long-term community recovery.