Plenty of single-wides in Cordova - just not for storm survivors - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Plenty of single-wides in Cordova - just not for storm survivors

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Despite what you might have thought, there are plenty of single-wide portable structures in Cordova as the town rebuilds from a devastating tornado.

The police department is in a single-wide building on wheels.  People are paying their water bills in a portable building.  Actual trailers with hitch hook-ups are scattered around the downtown area.  Even a couple of portable bank buildings are set up.

But you still will not find any FEMA-issued portable homes on the properties of storm survivors.  Despite many residents losing their houses to the April 27 tornado, Mayor Jack Scott remained committed Wednesday to upholding a city ordinance that bans single-wide mobile homes.

Scott said via telephone that the mobile home ordinance was updated in 2008 to help the city combat the problem of people dumping mobile homes on various properties and bypassing permits and inspections.  A lot of people were apparently abandoning the homes, and squatters had become a problem.

But then there was the tornado.

When the mayor was asked why city services and businesses can move into single-wide portables during the cleanup but the city would not allow FEMA homes for residents who lost everything, the mayor hung up the phone.

Citizens have been asking the same question.

"They allowed that because it wasn't a residence," is what Michelle Reed heard.

"Don't you have to have residents to be able to use that bank and police department?  If everybody has to move out and go, what do we have left?" Reed asked.

Reed, whose house suffered little damage from the storm, had wanted to help those who lost much more.

"What I had suggested doing was putting FEMA trailers right in my backyard," Reed said.  "But because of the mayor, we can't do that.  We can't help our neighbors because he won't let us."

"This is a Christian community," she added.  "And that's the first thing we're taught as Christians -- you help your neighbors where you see you need help.  And it's just heartbreaking that we can't."

Jackie Hallman, who had lived on the same property in Cordova for 44 years, is certainly heartbroken at the city's refusal to allow FEMA homes.  Weeks after losing her mobile home to the storm, Hallman is still living in a hotel wondering what to do.

"I have a family, and it's not fun to wake up and not know where your home is at," Hallman said.  "It's hard enough to lose your home.  But to be put through this, too?  That's twice.  You know, you shouldn't have to go through that."

"I consider myself fortunate.  I had a husband and two sons in the tornado inside the trailer.  All of them lived," Hallman added.  "But then this came up, and it just leaves us hanging.  I mean, where am I supposed to go now?"

For now, Hallman must continue to commute from the hotel.

It was unclear Wednesday whether anyone with any power at Cordova City Hall might make an effort to amend the city's ordinances for storm survivors to receive FEMA homes.  ABC 33/40 was told off-camera that at least some city council members are apparently upset with the current issue and could soon take action on behalf of those who lost their homes.