Gov. Ivey Visits Sawyerville: Community Demands Storm Shelters
Governor Kay Ivey visited Sawyerville, Alabama Monday after a vicious tornado decimated parts of the community last Thursday. The devastation in Hale County is extensive, but not unprecedented -- community members recalled seeing similar destruction in April 2011 when deadly, powerful tornadoes ripped through much of the state.
Sawyerville residents called on Gov. Ivey to help them build sturdy public storm shelters in the area and were outraged that nothing has been done about this problem to date.
“This community has been hit twice in 2011, and several other times since then with no storm shelters at all,” David Williams, whose father lost his home during Thursday’s severe weather event, told the governor. “We have to get storm shelters.”
While Ivey said she was sympathetic to those who’ve lost their homes, she did not make any promises about building state-funded storm shelters.
“Y’all need some storm shelters, and I would just plead with all of you to touch base with all of your community-based civic groups, share the need with them, and let them come together to start digging some dirt and building storm shelters,” she said. “Storm shelters are not going to fall out the sky.”
Gov. Ivey also traveled to Shelby and Calhoun Counties to assess the damage caused by two of the 11 tornados that touched down last Thursday.
“I’ll pool all the assessments and make a request to the federal government for assistance, but they don’t give assistance for free,” the governor said. “You have to meet certain levels of intensity, and certain levels of destruction.”
According to a Facebook post by Eugene Tinker, some volunteers are taking matters into their own hands, but on a much smaller scale than is necessary to serve the community-at-large.
With support from fellow community members Judge Arthur Crawford Sr. and Kenneth W. Ellis, Tinker is building a storm shelter in his own backyard that can hold 50 people in an emergency situation.
With Ivey's hesitance to make any guarantees about building storm shelters in the area, the safety of Sawyerville residents may rely on the kindness of neighbors such as Tinker.