FEMA office opens in Etowah County; lieutenant governor visits - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

FEMA office opens in Etowah County; lieutenant governor visits

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ETOWAH COUNTY, Ala. - A mobile FEMA disaster recovery center arrived in Friday morning in Etowah County's Smith Institute community.

The FEMA workers are ready to assist people with claims following a disaster declaration for the county.  An EF-3 tornado traveled nine miles through the area just after midnight April 29.

"The most important thing is if they've had any type of damage of their own is call [1-800-621-FEMA]," FEMA staffer Sam Lockey said.

"If they have any problems, that's what these centers are for, is to help walk them through the problems."

More than 60 people met with the FEMA staff during the first six hours the center was open.  The bus will be at Sardis City Hall starting Saturday.  Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.  FEMA staff will likely be in the area for a few weeks.

Lieutenant governor Kay Ivey and some of Etowah County's state legislators toured storm damage Friday afternoon.  Governor Robert Bentley also planned to attend but there was an issue with his airplane and he was unable to travel from Montgomery.

"This area has been awarded the highest level of FEMA assistance in individual assistance.  That's a good standing, and that's on top of the public assistance that was awarded as well," Ivey said.

She met some of the storm survivors, including David and Amy Feemster.  They were inside their house when the tornado picked the home off its foundation and carried it toward the woods on the edge of their property.

"Shock," Ivey said about her reaction to hearing the Feemster's story, which she described as one of the most dramatic she's heard from last month's storms.

"Amazement.  I mean for a house to be lifted up with all the occupants inside, twisted, turned, and moved 200 feet, still intact?  And they were all safe?  It's amazing."

Amy Feemster said it meant a lot to her for the state legislators to come see her.  She also feels relieved that Etowah County finally received a disaster declaration.  Many people in the community were frustrated by the eight-day wait before Etowah joined several other counties on the list of areas eligible for FEMA assistance.

"It felt like we were left out, but they finally declared us, and that's a good thing.  Maybe a lot of people around here can get some help," Feemster said.

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