Sen. Doug Jones visits East Alabama to meet with tornado survivors, local leaders on recovery efforts


By Morgan Bryce

Sen. Doug Jones visited Smiths Station last Wednesday to meet with tornado survivors and local leaders to discuss ways the state can better address future natural disasters.
Jones met privately with residents affected by the March 3 tornadoes at Smiths Station Baptist Church’s Studio 4:12 building and received updates on recovery efforts. Later, in a round-table meeting with local dignitaries including District 4 Commissioner Robert Ham and Smiths Station Mayor Bubba Copeland, Jones fielded questions and received input on a number of issues, with the main focus revolving on long-term assistance in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
“All in all it went very well,” Ham said, who participated in the meeting. “The part of it that went good is the part where we have a guy that’s a U.S. senator, who is listening and has the horsepower to make things change. He’s listening not to me as a small-time county commissioner, but he’s listening to the victims. He’s listening to what happened to these individuals, so he can put all of that information together.”
During a press conference with the media, Jones stated that Wednesday’s visit “was focused on meeting with people” but that he plans to return and assess affected areas in the near future. He also praised the efforts of local, state and federal emergency management agencies for their handling of the situation.
“When I was standing here last month, I told folks I wanted to come back and check on things to see how the federal government was doing,” Jones said. “I knew the folks in Lee County locally, the EMA and state folks are doing an amazing job. I felt like the FEMA people were doing their job from what I’ve seen.”
Other speakers included Lee County EMA Director Kathy Carson and State EMA Director Brian Hastings, who explained that they will continue fighting for fewer obstacles and “red tape” to make the future aid, recovery and rebuilding processes easier for victims.
“We have a very close partnership with FEMA … it’s one team, one fight. But, one of the things we run into is helping them in spite of themselves … it’s not FEMA, it’s just the federal bureaucracy,” Hastings said.
Jones traveled to Auburn later in the day for a town-hall forum with students, with topics ranging from marijuana legalization to prison conditions across the state.


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