Tomorrow, I’ll start with committee meetings at 0830. I have back-to-back-to-back meetings until we go into session tomorrow...should be a busy day!
Tornado Recovery - My family’s prayers are with those who lost family members and suffered property damage from the tornadoes last week.
I have been singularly focused on disaster operations since last week. We now know that it was an EF5 Tornado, with winds in the 200MPH range, that crossed Limestone and Madison Counties along a 132 mile path across the state.
I participated in daily conference calls with the Governor’s Office and State Emergency Management Office each morning. I would then hit the road, traveling across Limestone and Madison counties to visit with residents impacted by the storm. I normally started in East Limestone at the command post set up at the Volunteer Fire Dept and worked my way West, through affected neighborhoods, completing the Limestone tour in the Tanner community. I would then turn around and head east, keeping the storm damage to my left, zigzagging from road to road across the region, stopping along the way to check in with residents impacted by the storms. I would ultimately end at the eastern edge of the district in Madison County. I stopped at homes where people were outside working, visiting numerous homes in each subdivision and in many rural areas along the way.
My goal was to ensure the immediate needs were being met via local and state authorities, and to ensure residents knew to call the FEMA number to register for additional assistance. I called in to several radio programs each day, passing along updates and information on locations for water, ice, tarps and continuously reiterating the need for residents to register with FEMA. I was able to attend two press conferences, one with Governor Bentley in Madison County and one with Limestone County officials at Tanner High School. On one day I traveled with Rep McCutcheon, Commissioner Menefee and two Limestone County Commissioners. I met several times with Commissioner Strong. He and his team did an amazing job!
My oldest daughter was able to ride with me on two days. She is a student at the University of Alabama and survived the Tuscaloosa storm in a utility closet with several friends. The house they were in suffered significant damage and we are blessed that she and her friends came through the storm unscathed. It was good for her to talk with residents as we toured the area. We visited with several people who actually showed us where they sought shelter in their home (or what was left of it) during the storm.
The volunteer efforts across the region were simply amazing and made me very proud of our community. Likewise, the coordinated effort of county and local officials was nothing short of exemplary. I’m also very thankful to the many law enforcement officers, power line workers and other professionals from other communities and states who are working in our community.
I’m particularly thankful for Governor Bentley and his staff for working with the President to include both Limestone and Madison County in the Individual Declaration. This will allow affected residents to receive additional federal befits in the weeks and months ahead. Please continue to pass along the FEMA number (1-800-621-3362) to those who suffered storm damage. Residents can also register online at www.DisasterAssistance.Gov. Attached is a FEMA fact sheet on benefits available from this program.
Most important, please continue to keep those affected in your prayers and continue to contribute in any way you are able to do so in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Behind on Emails – Like most across the Tennessee Valley, I have been without power, cable and internet since Tuesday evening. Our power returned late Sunday and cable and internet returned late Monday evening. I was unable to access email until today, when I arrived in Montgomery. I’ll continue to get caught up on emails as my schedule allows.
School Year? – We are working several options to address the additional days lost in this year’s school calendar. I will support efforts to minimize further impact on families due to the extraordinary weather events we have faced. However, I want to ensure we “cover all bases” with any action taken. I’ll continue to provide updates as they become available.
AT-PRO - as an update to AT-PRO, I’ve attempted to schedule a work session during the past two weeks on this proposed bill with fellow members of the legislature in both the House and Senate. Today’s meeting was scheduled at 4 PM but the Senate continued to work until later in the evening, forcing me to once again reschedule. My goal is to refine the bill, even before moving forward in the committee process. I will continue to work on the bill and reschedule a work session later this week in order to gain bi-partisan support to move this forward.