‘We’ve been able to move past it,’ Clay mayor says
By Gary Lloyd
CLAY — The lots are still nothing more than cracked sidewalks, but homes will soon begin to rise again in Georgebrook.
The Clay subdivision off Old Springville Road became the dominant visual of the Jan. 23, 2012 EF-3 tornado, which scarred the landscape and took the life of 16-year-old Christina Heichelbech in Steeplechase.
It’s now been three years since 98 structures were destroyed by the tornado in Clay. There were 241 with major damage, 194 with minor damage and 138 affected. There was also substantial damage at the Department of Youth Services Girls School on Old Springville Road.
Clay City Manager Ronnie Dixon said the city has torn down three houses and performed about 50 weed abatements, though not all are related to the tornado. The best news is that a developer has bought the remaining lots in Georgebrook for rebuilding on the empty slabs.
“He’ll probably finish this year,” Dixon said.
The city of Clay received no Federal Emergency Management Agency or Alabama Emergency Management Agency funding in the wake of the tornado, but it has established a contingency fund for possible disasters in the future. Dixon said the city plans on contributing $125,000 to it this year, bringing the total to $300,000.
“We’re glad we’ve been able to move past it,” Clay Mayor Charles Webster said of the tornado.
Webster said that in the last couple years things have been done to help the community and move it forward. The turf installation at Cougar Stadium on the Clay-Chalkville High School campus is one. So is the Cougars’ Class 6A football state championship.
A new vocational education building being constructed on the high school campus is another positive.
“Education and athletics are helping to rebuild the whole community,” Webster said. “Those things, along with the traffic signal at Clay-Palmerdale Road and Old Springville Road, that the community has waited on for 20 years, as well as the resurfacing of OSR and several city streets, show that we have moved beyond the storm, but we’ll never forget the life that was lost.”
Things are also looking up in the Pilgrims Rest subdivision in Trussville, where 17 homes were completely destroyed by the tornado and 82 were affected. Homes are being rebuilt and many already have.
Contact Gary Lloyd at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.