Progress, problems continue 1 month after tornadoes - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Progress, problems continue 1 month after tornadoes

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Disaster victims in Limestone Co. can still apply for assistance in-person Disaster victims in Limestone Co. can still apply for assistance in-person
ATHENS, AL (WAFF) -

It has been one month since a deadly tornado outbreak that left several people dead and millions of dollars in damage.

Since then, Federal Emergency Management Officials have been in the impacted areas. The relief center in DeKalb County closed over the weekend, but the one in Limestone County remains open.

In the last month, 227 FEMA registrations have been approved in Limestone County alone. $725,000 in housing assistance has been approved, along with another $366,000 in other help.

The Limestone County disaster center on Ripley Road remained open on Memorial Day, as people continue the cleanup process. Officials there said they wanted to take advantage of the fact that a lot of people would be off of work Monday and be able to come down to sign up for assistance.

At least a dozen people walked through the disaster center's doors Monday. It will remain open for the next month or so, and officials said there is always a last-minute rush of people looking for help. Anyone with damage – no matter the size – should apply. Assistance from financial help to housing is available.

"These people initially have been through a state of shock," said FEMA Public Relations Officer Nate Custer. "They find that federal government, along with state and local here provide some immediate assistance – maybe to get them some rental housing when their home is not livable."

If applying in-person is not convenient, there are still other ways to apply, including by web and by mobile.

At a trailer park just off Highway 72, not much appears to have changed since the storm. Debris is still everywhere, despite folks working every day. Many here did not have insurance, so they are struggling financially.

Internet service and cell phone signals were only restored recently, making communication regarding the cleanup much easier. Trailer park owner Barb Smiley said she is doing everything she can to stay positive.

"Every morning I get up and look at this and I feel like I am spinning my wheels," said Smiley. "You work all day, but you can't see any results. It's just going to take awhile to clean the wreckage up."

A continued problem in this area is that of looters - those who personify the term "kicking you when you're down." Property owners here said people are stealing salvaged items. Warning signs have been put out in an attempt to ward potential thieves away.

Looting stopped temporarily when troops and emergency assistance first showed up to help. But owners said once they left, thefts picked right back up.

Anything of value has been taken: air conditioning units, electronics, scrap metal - anything with a resale value. They are items that owners said they intended to sell to help regain some financial loss.

"What kind of person would do that," asked Smiley. "We are already down, you don't have to kick us in the mouth. But it is happening; it is happening to me. And it hasn't stopped yet."

Smiley said they are not just relying on the warning signs. If they see anyone wandering around, they will call the sheriff's office.

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