Lee County using tornado recovery experience to help Autauga County

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 7:44 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2023 at 10:17 PM CST
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AUTAUGA COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - It was 2019 when a deadly EF-4 tornado hit Lee County. 23 people died, and dozens were injured.

At that time, Autauga County officials stepped in to help, and now the Lee County EMA is repaying that favor.

“We practice helping our brothers and sisters out because you never know when the next time is your time,” said Lee County EMA Director Rita Smith.

The Lee County EMA helped set up the Autauga County volunteer reception center. A pivotal location in getting volunteers connected with storm victims.

Now, Smith is helping Autauga County with its application process for FEMA aid.

“It’s a pleasure to help someone. Someone had to help me and show me and teach me,” Smith said.

It is knowledge Autauga County EMA Director Ernie Baggett does not take for granted.

“Bringing in other people and letting them help look over your shoulder to make sure you don’t miss anything, and it’s always good to ask experts for help,” Baggett said.

Disasters like these are devasting not only for residents but the county government. However, hauling off millions of dollars of debris can be challenging.

“That’s a lot to press onto a county,” Baggett said.

Because of Lee County’s past experience, Autauga County now has a better chance of getting properly reimbursed.

“They had a lot of rural areas that were affected like we did,” Smith said. “They had fatalities as we did, and so we’ve been very blessed to be able to give that back and be able to go over and offer some support.”

The Autauga County EMA said it could be a year before affected communities start to appear more normal.

Meanwhile, the Lee County EMA said their recovery efforts have gone great, but you can still tell a tornado hit four years ago.

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