MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - On Thursday it will have been six-months since the April 27 tornadoes that killed 248 people in Alabama. The milestone comes as Alabama residents wind up the cleanup from those storms and make sure they are prepared for the next bout with bad weather.
Alabama Emergency Management Agency director Art Faulkner said the state and local governments have completed cleanup of almost 10 million cubic yards of debris from public and private property, including tons of debris that ended up in two lakes.
Faulkner said all together there were 62 tornadoes that stretched along tracks that covered 1,177 miles.
The tornadoes struck a widespread area across the state with fatalities reported from Elmore County in central Alabama to far north Alabama.
Faulkner said Tuesday communities are now transitioning into long-range planning and rebuilding areas devastated by the storms.
"They have to decide how they want their communities to be remembered," Faulkner said.
He said this is particularly important in small towns like northwest Alabama's Phil Campbell and Hackleburg where much of the business districts were destroyed.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials released statistics Tuesday showing that $530 million in federal funds have been approved to help survivors of the tornadoes. In addition $175 million has been given to Alabama residents and businesses in disaster grants and low interest loans.
FEMA officials said another $72.8 million was provided to help survivors find temporary housing, make basic repairs and replace essential personal property.
The Alabama storms were part of a wild April that included 753 tornadoes across the U.S. with more than 360 fatalities.
The 6-month mark since the storms will observed in a mostly quiet fashion. A short program remembering the tornadoes and the victims is planned for 8 a.m. Thursday in Athens in Limestone County, where there will be prayer and a moment of silence.
The observance will take place at the town's annual Storytelling Festival. The prayer will be given by Limestone County resident Chris Preston, whose house and the homes of his two sons were hit by a tornado.
Preston, 51, said he and his wife were in the basement of their farmhouse when the tornado hit at about 4:30 p.m. He said he knew almost immediately that the storm was bad because he sat out a similar storm in the same basement during an outbreak of tornadoes in 1974.
"I wasn't prepared for exactly what the damage would look like, but I knew it was bad," said Preston, who works as a builder in east Limestone County.
Preston said he's not sure what he will say when he presents the prayer at Thursday's observance
"It's an opportunity to gather with loved ones who experienced the same thing. It's an opportunity to give thanks," he said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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