Many counties in Alabama are now undergoing major clean-up activities in the aftermath of the deadly tornadoes that hit our state in late April. More than a month has passed and it’s quite apparent that the recovery will take a very long time and will be very expensive. It appears that damage to insured property from the deadly tornadoes could reach as much as $4 billion, which will set a new record. The state’s old record for damages to property covered by insurance from a natural disaster was $2 billion from Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Early estimates have put the damage across the South at as much as $6 billion. To put the current damage assessment in perspective, damage to insured property in Alabama during Hurricane Katrina in 2004 was $1 billion. Seventy percent of the damage from the tornadoes in the Southeast was in Alabama.
It should be noted that a significant amount of the total damages was to property that had no insurance coverage and that is very sad. According to the Red Cross, about 14,000 homes were destroyed or heavily damaged in Alabama. Another 9,400 dwellings sustained less severe damage. In addition, a large number of businesses were also destroyed or severely damaged. Since many of the dwellings and businesses were underinsured, that will cause major problems for the owners.
The April tornados were more violent and widespread than any our state has ever seen. It has been reported that 305 tornados touched down during the April 25th- 28th outbreak. This was double the April average of 161 tornados. Gov. Robert Bentley and executives from five large insurance companies met in early May to assess the situation. The Governor said state officials learned during Ivan and Katrina that about 70 to 75% of Alabama’s homeowners are insured for their losses. For those who are not insured, help is available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Gov. Bentley has been pleased with the response, including everyone from President Barack Obama, who visited the state and approved disaster assistance, to the hundreds of emergency response workers and tremendous number of volunteers who have worked tirelessly in the clean-up and recovery efforts. Most of the attention – and justifiably so – has been on the deaths and property damage in the counties that were hit hardest by the destructive tornadoes. There is also the emotional damage for the survivors that must be dealt with. Many Alabamians lost family members and friends. Thousands have lost either their businesses or their jobs and will have tremendous financial problems as a result. The economic losses to our state are huge and will be felt for a very long time.
FEMA’s maximum grant for storm damage is $30,200. While that money can be used to bridge some gaps between insurance coverage and costs to replace a home, it’s not enough to rebuild a destroyed dwelling. In addition, the maximum grant includes temporary housing the agency can provide for up to 18 months. Those who need larger amounts to rebuild homes and don’t have any insurance or don’t have enough insurance coverage to cover the costs can apply for a loan from the Small Business Administration. The deadline for applying for an SBA loan is June 27th.
The disaster has brought folks in our state much closer together and that has been a good thing. Since the tornadoes struck, both the volunteer efforts and financial giving by Alabama citizens and organizations have been unbelievably good. It makes me realize there are lots of good folks in our state who really care about their fellow citizens. The recovery will be difficult and lengthy, but I am convinced that we will restore the areas hit by the tornadoes. In the meanwhile, we can’t let any parts of the state be overlooked. Neither can we let the passage of time weaken our resolve to help folks who still badly need our help.
Source: Tuscaloosa News
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