Officials continue to grapple with the enormous job of deciding what to do with the broken pieces of Alabama. Friday Governor Robert Bentley spoke with local and federal leaders trying to push that process forward.
It will take years for Alabama to recover from April 27, 2011. Twisted, mangled piles of debris have been mounded like ant hills in hard hit neighborhoods and some has been hauled away after the tornadoes cuts paths across the landscape.
Debris made from Bibles to buildings, have been found scattered from lawns to lakes.
Bentley says he asked FEMA for federal help clearing storm debris from public waterways. His request focused on Lake Martin and Lake Neely after the state Emergency Management Agency suggested the request.
“As we enter into the summer boating season, it is imperative that any storm related debris be removed from the water,” Bentley said.
Reports of everything from parts of buildings to vehicles have been reported lurking just below the water’s surface in area lakes. “Alabama waterways must be cleaned of storm debris to avoid any water related accidents,” Bentley explained.
He asked FEMA have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers help remove the debris.
Meantime, Birmingham city leaders are at loggerheads about using the Corps of Engineers to clear debris in places like the demolished community of Pratt City. A majority of city councilors say they want the Corps of Engineers brought in to remove debris. Mayor William Bell supports putting up $10-million to hire four private companies to get the job done. They plan to vote on the issue at the next council meeting Tuesday.
At a press conference Friday Bentley said he expects Birmingham leaders to, “get along and make some decisions, and go to work and get the debris removed.”
Bentley also noted FEMA has already sent letters to more than 20,000 people denying their applications for federal assistance. Bentley said the letters were insensitive responses to pleas for help.
At least some of that help is being denied in the Walker County town of Cordova, not by FEMA, but by the mayor.
Storm victims were hoping FEMA trailers could be brought in to provide temporary housing for residents without homes. Mayor Jack Scott says he worries the town will look like a trailer park and is fighting that idea.
Cordova was hit by at least two twisters April 27, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, demolishing the small town. The storms destroyed homes and businesses, including the town’s medical clinic, grocery store and other facilities that were “flattened.”
The mayor claims the city’s zoning ordinance only allows for only double wide mobile homes. The single wide trailers, like those provided by FEMA, are forbidden. Scott says he wants the town to strive to be an upscale community.
We want other people, young people, professional people to come here,” he said. He expressed a fear that if FEMA trailers were brought in to help, they would cause property values to drop.
Storm victims say they need a place to live and are begging for FEMA’s help. Tuesday night they plan to take the issue before the Cordova City Council.