By Morgan Bryce and Robert Noles
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a major disaster declaration from FEMA earlier today that will provide federal funding to areas of Lee County affected by Sunday’s storms.
President Donald Trump swiftly approved the declaration Tuesday following his conversation with Ivey earlier in the week. This morning, she embarked on a walking tour of the damage along Lee Road 38 to view the damage and held a press conference at Beauregard High School to update the media.
“(The damage) is absolutely horrendous. It’s a wonder that more people weren’t killed … 23 is a high number without question,” Ivey said.
According to the FEMA website, assistance can include “grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.”
With the death toll finally confirmed at 23 people, first responders and volunteers can switch from search-and-rescue to recovery operations.
Alabama attorney general Steve Marshall and Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones offered words of encouragement to those affected.
“What I can tell the people of Beauregard and Smiths Station and Lee County is not only are there people in this county that are lifting them, not only are there people in the state thinking about them but they are also doing it nationally. We don’t want them to feel alone,” Marshall said. “Governor Ivey is not just here to talk to you today, but she will make sure that leading the state’s efforts going forward goes on for weeks from now, a month from now and a year from now as they begin to rebuild what for many of them is a new normal.”
Likening Beauregard’s and Smiths Station’s communities to their school’s mascots, Jones said he believes both communities and the rest of Lee County will bounce back stronger than ever.
“Anybody that has had dealings with a hornet knows that they are ferocious and tenacious and that pretty much sums up the people in this community. The people in the Smiths Station area, their mascot is a panther, and panthers are pretty tough themselves,” Jones said. “I can assure that (these) communities will be resilient during the coming days, in the coming weeks and in the coming months … they will be back.”
Ivey also ordered that flags be flown at half staff across the state until Sunday evening.
For more information about FEMA and its list of services, visit www.fema.gov.