By Gary Lloyd
CLAY — It’s been two years since an EF-3 tornado ripped through northeastern Jefferson County and a large portion of the city of Clay.
The city is still moving forward.
“The major area still is the debris cleanup,” said City Manager Ronnie Dixon. “Most of the (right of way) has been done but there are many private homes and lands that were either not covered by insurance or the owners used the money they received for other purposes, leaving the city to go through the abatement process in order to clean these areas.”
Dixon said the process is “time consuming” and that the money expended by the city is not recovered until the properties sell and the liens are paid.
“Of course, the absence of any federal or state money to the city has extended the cleanup process,” he said.
Dixon said all collected debris — hundreds of truckloads — that was taken to Clay City Park has been discarded and the acreage disturbed by that process is graded and was hydro-seeded Tuesday.
Dixon said Clay has submitted all required documents to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency detailing “our emergency preparedness plan, the roles of employees and equipment.”
The Jan. 23, 2012, tornado destroyed 98 structures in Clay and severely damaged 241. A total of 321 homes were damaged. That day one year ago was proclaimed as Christina Heichelbech Day in Clay, named for the 16-year-old Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School student who was killed in the tornado, a Steeplechase resident who was the city’s only fatality.
“Dozens of lots have been cleaned up and houses demolished,” Dixon said. “The residents have rebuilt almost all houses that were salvageable, and now builders are looking at the lots and slabs in subdivisions like Georgebrook and Paradise Valley to build on. The few damaged houses that remain are in some position in the abatement process and almost all of these are foreclosures that take longer due to having to deal with mortgage companies and Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.”
In May 2013, the Clay City Council set aside $50,000 for use in case of a disaster situation. In June 2013, the city council put a new disaster recovery plan ordinance in place to help allocate resources after a disaster. In case of a disaster, the ordinance states, the mayor will be the official public information officer, and the city manager will be the emergency operations manager. Either official is authorized to spend up to $50,000 for “emergency equipment, supplies, or personnel without a vote from the council,” the ordinance states.
Dixon said the city has “come a long way in 2013.”
Contact Gary Lloyd at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.