DeKalb County seeks FEMA help for tornado victims

photo The floor of a destroyed mobile home rests upside down in the Kilpatrick community on Sand Mountain, Ala..

DEKALB DAMAGE REPORTS89: Structures destroyed71: Structures with major damage72: Structures with minor damage297: Structures affected529: Total storm-damaged structures countywideSource: DeKalb County Emergency Management AgencyTO HELP AND FIND HELPDeKalb County Emergency Management Agency officials said local storm victims and those who want to help can call the county agency at 256-638-9909 for more information. A informational meeting is set for 1 p.m. CDT Monday at Union Grove Baptist Church in Crossville, Ala.

Victims of last week's storms in DeKalb County, Ala., won't qualify for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but Gov. Robert Bentley has approved an application for financial help from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency director Anthony Clifton said this week that the storm damage just at Fort Payne High School and local industry Heil Corp. surpassed the $644,000 county threshold for FEMA assistance.

But because those facilities were insured, they don't count toward the tally the federal agency uses for financial aid for debris cleanup, he said.

"We believe that we have come up with enough [uninsured, damaged structures] to at least qualify for Small Business Administration loans for the people affected," Clifton said.

Bentley said this week that the state is getting $120 million in federal money to help with recovery projects, but most of that will be committed to Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Jefferson County. Those areas had much damage in April 2011.

Clifton said 529 DeKalb County homes, businesses, churches, farm buildings and other structures were destroyed, damaged or affected by last week's storms.

People who need help and those who want to help can attend a meeting Monday afternoon at the Union Grove Baptist Church in Crossville, Ala., he said.

Pastor Zach Richards said Crossville's churches have answered the call for help and churches are taking turns each day providing meals to storm victims in the area.

"We're just in the beginning phases of recovery," Richards said. "We're actually still responding."

National Weather Service officials last week confirmed the two tornadoes that hit DeKalb on March 18 were EF2 twisters with winds of 120 to 125 mph. The day after the storms, at least 70 DeKalb County families were left with no place to stay.

In the mountains a few miles northeast of Fort Payne, the DeSoto State Park Motel, Mountain Inn restaurant and a few cabins also were damaged. One person was injured slightly by flying glass, according to park officials.

Park Superintendent Ken Thomas said the motel and inn should be operational in the next few months, while trails, campgrounds and cabins are open for business.

"We are meeting with a structural engineer this Friday to determine and settle on a scope of work [for the motel and restaurant]," Thomas said Wednesday. "Until then I can only speculate that we will be back open 100 percent near the end of June."

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at [email protected] or 423-757-6569. Subscribe to his Facebook posts at facebook.com/ben.benton1 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/BenBenton.