FEMA Ignoring Small Town Ravaged by Tornadoes?

In April of 2011 tornadoes struck Cordova, Alabama killing 250 people while destroying thousands of homes and businesses. A year and a half later the town still looks like the disaster happened yesterday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency promised the small town, which has a population of just over 2,000, that it would provide the monies needed to demolish the damaged buildings, but after waiting for a year and a half, city residents are growing increasingly frustrated with the broken glass littering the streets, roofless buildings barely still standing, and the downtown area sealed off by a chain-link fence because it is considered unsafe. The tornadoes left behind $1 billion in damages.

FEMA has made numerous requests for documentation of the damage, but has still not provided the necessary funds. Cordova officials are asking for an estimated $933,000 to demolish the structures.

It’s very frustrating,” Mayor Drew Gilbert told the Associated Press. “You would think it’s been touched and seen now by everyone who needs to touch and seen it.”

Elizabeth Brown, preservation officer for the Alabama Historical Commission, said FEMA has never provided information as to when they would begin the much-needed demolition process of the ruined buildings.

FEMA officials told the AP that they are still gathering details about the damage before providing the money, which is a time-consuming process.

“This project involves demolition of multiple historically significant structures and requires that FEMA consider all pertinent environmental and historic preservation laws before funding the project,” the agency said.

FEMA’s procrastination has taken a huge toll on the local economy and employment opportunities. The damage wiped out businesses, leaving few available jobs for residents. Only schools, one bank, a pharmacy and a health clinic are open for employment. The town’s only grocery store was destroyed by the twisters, but unless the skeleton buildings are demolished, no new structures can replace them.

FEMA recently told city officials that their review of the city will be finished by Jan. 4, according to Cordova Fire Chief Dean Harbison, but funding for the demolition likely won’t be granted until the two-year anniversary of the tornado strike passes.

Our entire economy is gone, and it’s like they’re just doing nothing,” Mayor Gilbert said.

Meanwhile, FEMA announced Monday that it has provided $500 million to disaster areas ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, 10 percent of which went to individuals and families in Staten Island. The death toll due to the Alabama tornadoes was more than twice the death toll due to Sandy, but residents in this small town said they felt forgotten just a few weeks after the disaster. Cordova officials have asked for less than $1 million, but it may take them many more months before FEMA hands it over.

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Dead dolphins linked to BP oil spill…

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists have linked oil found on 8 of the 406 dolphins that washed ashore over the past 14 months to the massive BP oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in April of last year. This past February, after seeing a dramatic rise in the number of dead dolphins turning up on the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, the NOAA declared “an unusual mortality event”. There have been 153 deaths this year, 65 of which were newly born or stillborn. Some experts had suggested at the time of the spill that there would be delayed damage done to marine life. They also speculated that oil ingested or inhaled by dolphins could lead to miscarriages.

“It is significant that even a year after the oil spill we are finding oil on the dolphins, the latest just two weeks ago,” said Blair Mase, southeast marine mammal stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries. There has also been 87 dead sea turtles found, but so far there hasn’t been any visible traces of oil found on their bodies, said NOAA Fisheries national sea turtle coordinator, Barbara Schroeder. She also added “But we do not have very much information about how oil products find their way into turtles,”. There are five species of sea turtles that live in the gulf, all of which are considered at risk of extinction.

Samples have been sent for testing to determine if the oil spill contributed to the dolphins’ deaths but the Obama administration is keeping all lab findings under lock and key due to the ongoing civil and criminal investigation involving BP.

“Because of the seriousness of the legal case, no data or findings may be released, presented or discussed outside the (unusual mortality event) investigative team without prior approval,” NOAA stated in a February letter that was obtained by Reuters.