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Ivey visits Sawyerville in wake of deadly tornado, storm shelters delayed

Gov. Kay Ivey talks with Hale Co. EMA Director Russell Weeden in Sawyerville.

Gov. Kay Ivey visited with residents and local leaders at the site of destruction after a devastating tornado hit a Hale County community on Feb. 3. Ivey toured Sawyerville on Monday morning, Feb. 14 to survey the damage left by the deadly tornado. She noted that she had stood in the same area less than a year before, when another tornado had rocked the community, taking lives and destroying homes.

“It’s just tragic that about a year after the last tornado, this community was hit again while they’re trying to build back,” Ivey said after the visit. “It’s amazing how local folks and organizations from the county and state have come together to clean up and house the people impacted. Seeing neighbors helping neighbors is one of the best things about Alabama and makes me proud to be an Alabamian and governor.”

The construction of four new storm shelters in Hale County set before March of 2022, has been delayed.

“It’s just been a longer process than what we imagined,” said Emergency Management Agency Director, Russell Weeden. “That does not look like it’s going to happen soon due to paperwork and the backorder on storm shelters, the supply is very limited right now,” added Weeden.

Hale County availed itself of $200,000 from the Hazard Mitigation Program to bring in new storm shelters. However, with recent tornado damage in areas like Sawyerville, it’s an open question as to when the shelters will begin construction.

“Storm shelters are needed,” said Sawyerville resident Lakambra Holifield.

Currently the only storm shelters available to Hale County residents are the Greensboro Baptist Church, Moundville Fire Department, and Newbern. While some residents have their own shelters on private property, it does not fill the need to for rural communities.

“It’s pretty bad we need to get one, everybody needs to get one,” said Obadiah Benson, another Sawyerville resident.