By Adam Smith
Limestone Countians who have unmet needs following the April 27 tornadoes may benefit from a grant from the Alabama Tornado Relief Fund.
Kaye Young McFarlen, executive director of the Athens-Limestone United Way, announced a $100,000 grant had been received during Tuesday’s meeting of the Long-Term Recovery Committee. The group meets monthly to discuss ongoing cases related to last year’s tornado outbreak and new cases picked up from the March 2 tornadoes.
She said funds may be used to build a Habitat for Humanity home for a tornado victim, while any remaining funds would be used toward unmet recovery needs. The additional funds will also help ensure the LTRC has available relief funds when the next disaster strikes the area.
“It will ensure the integrity of the disaster fund so we can begin recovery quickly,” McFarlen said.
Also announced at Tuesday’s meeting was the group’s commitment to funding a memorial plaque to honor residents who lost their lives in tornadoes dating back to 1900. The cost of the plaque will be about $1,000.
The memorial, which was organized by the Tornado Remembrance and Awareness Committee, will be built at the Bethel Church of Christ cemetery. The church was destroyed in the EF5 tornado that devastated much of East Limestone.
“(The memorial) will enable us to remember the resilience the community has had in each of the disasters,” McFarlen said.
Residents in East Limestone still struggling to clean up their property following the March 2 tornadoes will see debris removal operations begin this week.
County Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said work was set to begin early this week, but rain on Monday and Tuesday means work may not start until today or Thursday.
Debris removal will consist of vegetative debris only and will be confined to neighborhoods in East Limestone affected by the March storms. Menefee said debris should be moved to the right-of-way for pickup.
County Engineer Richard Sanders said the contractor, Cahaba Disaster Recovery, has one month to complete the debris removal, but the operation may be done in two weeks. The county is paying the firm $63,500 to remove an estimated 10,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris at a cost of $6.35 per cubic yard.
Menefee said only two passes would be made through affected neighborhoods, though he believes most of the cleanup can be accomplished on the first pass. He said many residents have acted to clear vegetative debris using their own resources.
The LTRC heard updates on several cases, including that of the Harbin family who lost its home in the Tremont subdivision in the April 27 tornadoes.
Using a combination of the family’s own resources and outside contributions, Habitat for Humanity of Athens-Limestone is building the family a new fortified home in the same location. The home is being built using insulated concrete forms, which means it can sustain winds of up to 225 mph. It will also feature a safe room shelter in the garage.
Greg Miller, executive director of HFH, said the roof of the home is now finished and exterior bricks have been delivered. The family may move into the home in June.
McFarlen also announced that a team of 373 volunteers will converge on Limestone County this summer to help make repairs and clean up storm-damaged properties. The group, which was invited by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, will be in the county from July 7-14 and will stay at Tanner High School.
The workers will perform light-to-medium electrical, plumbing and carpentry work. They may also be involved in general maintenance projects like gutter cleaning and debris removal. McFarlen said other groups will also arrive in the county over the summer, but none will be “of this scale.”