Lee County still healing 7 weeks after tornadoes

Updated: Apr. 24, 2019 at 8:05 PM EDT
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LEE COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - It has now been seven weeks since tornadoes touched down in Lee County, killing 23 people and destroying dozens of homes.

Along County Road 38 homes are unlivable - debris is scattered about. The recovery process is a long one in Beauregard.

Senator Doug Jones visited Lee County Wednesday to get an update on the tornado recovery.

"It is frustrating for those that have lost their home," he said.

Jones met with storm victims, as well as federal, state, and local officials to get an update on the progress.

"I'm real proud of the folks down here in this county, city and in this entire community,” he said. “They are Smiths Station strong. Lee County strong. All of that. It's amazing how they've been so resilient."

As the community works to help the victims of the March 3 tornadoes, they're also focused on lessons learned and how to save lives when the next storm hits.

"We got to talk about this, not just for this community, now they know,” Jones said. “We've got to take the messages here around the state, around the south, and say heed these warnings."

Carolyn Reese did heed the warnings. She left home and took shelter in a safer location. It may have saved her life, because the storm “tore [her] roof off.”

Reese is one of the storm victims who met with Jones. She had insurance, but she said getting her home repaired has been a slow process.

"There's a lot of people that was impacted also, and they're trying to help everybody along with helping me," she said.

"When you deal with the federal government, you're always dealing with a bureaucracy, and I get that,” Jones said. “And there are things that we got to protect, but at the same time I think we can make things more efficient and faster if we can cut through the red tape."

The state EMA tells us that so far more than $26 million have been paid out in insurance claims, but with so much work to be done, finding enough contractors to do it has been a challenge.

More than 1,500 first responders from across the state helped out following the tornadoes. Another 8,000 volunteers have also supported the recovery efforts.

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