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May 4, 2011

Tornado System Disaster in Alabama

[Page: S2613]  GPO's PDF 

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Mr. SHELBY. Madam President, I rise to thank my colleagues in the Senate and countless others across the country for their outpouring of support and offers of assistance to my State of Alabama in this time of need.

On April 27--this last week--an unprecedented tornado system struck the State of Alabama, claiming hundreds of lives and destroying thousands of homes and businesses. At last count, 236 people in Alabama alone were dead, with thousands more injured and a lot missing. It will take many years and potentially billions of dollars for my State to fully recover from this catastrophic disaster.

We have received calls from my fellow Senators, many of whom recently experienced destruction in their own States due to floods and deadly storms, with offers of help. To those who have reached out, I wish to offer my sincere gratitude on behalf of the people of Alabama. I also wish to thank President Obama and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate for their swift response and commitment to restoring our State.

Their words of encouragement to disaster victims during their visit to Alabama helped ease the grief burdening local families, and their work with Gov. Robert Bentley and Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Art Faulkner has provided vital assistance during these difficult times. This continued level of Federal coordination is critical to ensuring that Alabama gets back on its feet as quickly as possible.

I have never in my life seen such devastation to the extent I saw during my visit to my home State of Alabama recently. Giant oaks lie flattened and splintered. Homes throughout the State were demolished, leaving thousands homeless and reliant on the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and others for shelter. At one point last week, over 1 million Alabama residents were without power--almost one-quarter of the State's population. It was gut-wrenching to walk through scattered rubble and realize it was once the site of someone's home or someone's business. The scale and the magnitude of destruction can only be described as hell on Earth.

In our State, while larger cities such as Birmingham and Tuscaloosa--my hometown--suffered extensive damage, so did other rural areas. Communities such as Pratt City, Pleasant Grove, Concord, Rainsville, Hackleburg, Cullman, and many others also incurred the wrath of the storm system and are now trying to assess the extent of their damage.

In DeKalb, Marion and Franklin Counties alone, we have seen nearly 100 deaths. Virtually every part of the State was touched by storms, and all of us were affected. The pain and loss that families are experiencing are still fresh. Many remain in shock.

However, we must also recognize that Alabama was not the lone victim of the storm. As we continue our cleanup and recovery efforts, so do the people of Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia, Louisiana, and Kentucky. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the affected States. We stand willing and able to assist you, as you have offered similar support to us.

I want to reassure the people of Alabama and all the affected States that we will do everything we can on the Federal level to restore life as it was before. My staff and I are working with the State, FEMA, and the other Federal agencies to ensure as quick and efficient a recovery as possible.

Thousands of Alabamians have opened their homes, donated supplies, made contributions, and rushed to help in any way they could. After witnessing the selfless generosity of complete strangers and the sheer resilience of those affected by the storms, I have never been more proud to call Alabama my home.

It will take a lot of work and help from volunteers, but I am convinced that, together, we can overcome this terrible tragedy.

Madam President, I yield the floor.

(Senate - May 3, 2011)

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