Two years later: Cottonton, AL tornado

By Laura Ann Sills - email

RUSSELL COUNTY, AL (WTVM) - Two years after a tornado ripped through the East Alabama town of Cottonton the storm's path is still very clear.  Families who lost everything have yet to rebuild.

An empty lot, a lone chimney and debris are the only things left of the Cottonton community that was blown away exactly two years ago.

"A tragedy we weren't expecting, but one we were well prepared for," says Cottonton Firefighter, Jeff Honnell.  He was one of the firefighters that used infrared cameras to rescue a family from the rubble.

The tornado took the homes of five families, but luckily, no lives were lost.

Russell County's EMA director remembers the day well.  He took a personal interest in the families that were affected and still keeps up with them.  "One family told me that he was born and raised here and that's where he wanted to live for the rest of his life," said William Alexander, EMA Director.

The scene two years ago doesn't look too much different than today.

But, why haven't the families who lost their homes started to rebuild?

Alexander says, "Neither of the families that were affected by the tornado had homeowners insurance.  And, two of the families were on fixed income so it was certainly a struggle for them to get the financial resources to rebuild their homes."

Honnell wonders how they could ever rebuild and go back, "It's tough. It's an everyday reminder of what happened because the devastation is going to stay there for years to come."

A fund was set up after the storm came through to help the family get back on their feet.  But, it was not enough to start the rebuilding process.

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