By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley thought this job was difficult when he saw the unemployment numbers and the finances that he had inherited from Governor Riley and the outgoing Democratic legislative majorities; then, April 2011 happened and a hard job got harder. Parts of the state were leveled by waves of tornadoes that surpassed any severe weather event that went before and all of us hope we don’t see anything like that ever again.
In less than two weeks time, more than 250 people in Alabama were killed. 2,200 people were injured. The 6,237 houses and 1,275 mobile homes that were destroyed left thousands of Alabamians homeless.
Rebuilding in Hackelburg, in the Pratt City neighborhood of Birmingham, in Bentley’s home in Tuscaloosa, in Phil Campbell, in Cordova, in Moulton, in Cullman, in Hanceville, and other communities across Alabama that were devastated that day is still an ongoing process.
A week before Christmas, Governor Robert Bentley on Tuesday announced more than $30 million in grants that will be awarded to 16 Alabama counties and municipalities devastated by the April 2011 tornadoes.
Governor Robert Bentley said, “Alabamians have worked hard to recover from the impact of the April 2011 tornadoes. We have seen a remarkable spirit of recovery in every area, but there are still effects from the tornadoes that communities need help to address. These grants will help Alabama communities continue the recovery process and become better places to live, work and raise a family. I appreciate Alabama’s Congressional delegation for helping to secure funding for the recovery process.”
In June 2011, Governor Bentley charged the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) with managing the long-term recovery efforts for the State.
ADECA Director Jim Byard Jr. said, “Having experienced tornado devastation within my own city while I was mayor of Prattville, I certainly know how important these grants are to the long-term recovery process for communities impacted by the tornadoes. Governor Bentley and I are both committed to providing the necessary resources within our means to help restore normalcy to the areas hit hardest by the tornadoes.”
The announcement is part of a special $49.1 million Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to aid continued disaster recovery. The funding that was announced December 17th will address continuing needs for demolition and clearance, multi-family housing, construction of public buildings, road repairs, water and sewer services, drainage improvements and economic revitalization. The funding will also help with infrastructure and flood management improvements designed to minimize potential damage from any future storms.
The State of Alabama began seeking additional funding shortly after the initial HUD funding was announced in order to meet the needed cost of the cleanup and recovery. Governor Bentley went to Washington D.C. in September 2012 to personally meet with HUD Director Shaun Donovan and request additional funding for Alabama.
On the 17th, Bentley announced that seven counties and nine municipalities are receiving grants at this time. Tuscaloosa County is receiving $7.3 million for sewer improvements and demolition in the devastated Holt community. The city of Cullman is receiving $5.72 million for sewer improvements. Cordova is receiving $3.7 million for rebuilding the city hall and the police department as well as for making road improvements. The town of Hackleburg is receiving $3.4 million for rebuilding both the town hall and the police department. The balance of the money will be used for street improvements, economic development and multi-family housing. Marion County is receiving $2.63 million for road and water improvements. Cullman County will receive $1.29 million for road improvements. Franklin County has been awarded $1.23 million for road improvements. Winston County is receiving $985,029 for road improvements. Phil Campbell will receive $976,104 for street and sewer improvements and demolition. Blount County is being awarded $758,572 for road improvements and DeKalb County will receive $672,135 also for road improvements. The City of Birmingham will receive $625,000 for demolition. The City of Moulton will receive $593,480 for street improvements. The City of Haleyville will receive $523,876 for street improvements. The City of Tuscaloosa is getting $100,000 for a bus stop and the City of Hanceville will get $80,000 for sewer improvements.
More than 250 people died and 2,200 were injured by multiple tornadoes and storms over a two-week period in April 2011. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 6,237 houses and 1,275 mobile homes were destroyed.
There is still more funding yet to be assigned to projects as further needs are identified.
The April 2011 severe weather deaths, contributed heavily to the statistic that more people have been killed by tornadoes in Alabama since World War II than in any other state.