THE GREEN SHIRTS: A group of volunteers called the Green Shirts have been canvassing such hard-hit Jefferson County communities as Pratt City and Pleasant Grove to identify storm survivors who need additional help, according to Robin DeMonia of The Birmingham News. This includes people who lost their homes and lack the insurance or government aid needed to rebuild.
The Green Shirts represent the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee/Disaster Response Services. Of those who have signed up to get the additional help, inadequate or no insurance is a recurring complaint, and some are suffering emotionally, according to team leader Tom Hoogeboom. “This is an extremely traumatic event,” he told DeMonia. “There’s a lot of shock out there; a lot of people have not fully comprehended the extent of their loss. We’ve had people so distraught they could barely speak to us.” Read DeMonia’s July 5 report, “Alabama tornadoes: Green Shirts to the rescue,” at al.com.
GIVE US COOL OUTDOOR STUFF: About 250 Tuscaloosa residents recently took part in a workshop to give their input on the rebuilding process in the city. The workshop was held June 30 at the Bryant Conference Center, according to a July 1 report at www.myfoxal.com. Some of the attendees’ suggestions included parks, outdoor recreation and walking and biking trails. The workshop was hosted by “Tuscaloosa Forward,” a group created by the City of Tuscaloosa to organize rebuilding.
SPRING IN AUGUST: Isobel Thompson of Corsicana, Texas, was a senior getting ready for finals at the University of Alabama when the tornado struck Tuscaloosa April 27. After the storm, according to Janet Jacobs of The Corsicana Daily, Thompson stayed in Tuscaloosa and volunteered to help clear debris, carry supplies and do other tasks. She and some friends volunteered to help find survivors in the rubble, which involved calling out for people and listening for responses. “It was superorganized,” Thompson told Jacobs. “I didn’t see any people, but the whole area was sad. The whole city was destroyed.” But she was impressed by the speed at which help arrived, including tents, food and water. “I was thoroughly impressed with how many people came out,” she said. “It was just amazing.”
When Thompson returned to Corsicana, according to Jacobs, people from her church and neighbors donated wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes and other items, and her brother loaned her a pickup so she could take it to Alabama. Thompson, who majored in psychology and criminal justice, plans to attend the University’s spring graduation ceremony that has been rescheduled for August. She is to graduate with honors. Read Jacobs’s July 3 article, “Thompson’s tornado tales: Local college student stays to help out in Tuscaloosa,” at corsicanadailysun.com.
A NEW BEGINNING: Cleanup crews left the town of Phil Campbell recently, but there are some piles of debris remaining, one of which worries the town’s police chief, according to a July 5 report by Trevor Stokes at www.timesdaily.com. Chief Merrell Potter fears that the pile of debris may contain many of the nearly 200 guns never recovered from a storm-ravaged business, LCS Custom Gun Work, which was located on the site.
Some parts of Phil Campbell, including the town’s east side, are nearly clear of debris, and damaged buildings have been removed down to the concrete slabs, according to Stokes. He says that Potter, while driving over a hill and looking at cleared lots and rolling hills, said, “You could almost sense a new beginning.”
GIVE ME A CHALUPA: The once-thriving business area of Ringgold, Ga., located along the Alabama Highway, was hit hard by the April storms, but a newly rebuilt Taco Bell is a sign that the rebuilding of the town has begun, according to a July 5 report by Joy Lukachick at timesfreepress.com/news. During the storms, more than 121 businesses were damaged and at least 30 destroyed in Ringgold, city officials told Lukachick.
With an opportunity to start over, some community leaders and business owners formed the Phoenix Group to generate ideas for how the town should be rebuilt. City officials decided not to enforce a design code, but instead came up with a list of 10 recommendations to give to businesses as they submit new plans. Two of the suggestions are to promote Ringgold’s original, historic architecture and to avoid a “big-box” chain-store appearance.
WE CARE ABOUT YOU… REALLY: The president of AT&T in Florida says his company recognizes the growing importance of social media as a means to communicate during natural disasters, including the tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa. And as the role of social media during natural disasters increases, so does the role of cellphone providers, according to Marshall Criser, in a piece of corporate PR printed as a commentary in The Tampa Tribune July 5. “The industry is working year-round to ensure the availability of service when our customers need it the most,” he says.
Criser’s op-ed includes some information about such new technology as “cells on wheels,” or COWs, which cellular providers can use to increase network capacity or replace downed towers after a disaster. This technology is being deployed by service providers after disasters across the country, he says. In Joplin, according to Criser, AT&T teams were ready with “pop-up” towers to ensure that storm victims had service to communicate with emergency responders and their loved ones. AT&T is also using social media to monitor interruptions in service.