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By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
Going on nine months since the south end of Coosa County was hit by a long-track EF-3 tornado on January 12, the Coosa County Long Term Recovery Committee, or LTRC, is continuing in its efforts to assist local tornado survivors.
Those impacted the most are primarily in the Equality and surrounding area, which sustained EF-3 intensity damage.
The Equality tornado crossed through five counties before dissipating on January 12, with that tornado having the longest track out of 14 tornadoes that occurred statewide that day. The tornado that hit Coosa County had a long-track path of 82.31 miles and was at least 1,500 yards wide.
As reported in January, that tornado, called the Old Kingston-Lake Martin Tornado, had estimated peak winds of 150 mph. The tornado resulted in seven fatalities and 16 injuries, though none of those were in Coosa County.
The tornado was on the ground for an hour and 20 minutes, according to the National Weather Service of Birmingham, beginning in Autauga County at 12:40 p.m. and continuing through Elmore, Coosa, Tallapoosa, and Chambers counties before dissipating.
Damage sustained in Coosa County included structural damage, including roof uplift or removal, and damage from wind-blown debris and fallen trees. There was a large volume of snapped trees in the path of the tornado, as well.
At the time, the NWS also reported “additional significant damage” along County Road 18 with vehicles moved or flipped, numerous trees snapped and site-built homes being heavily damaged or destroyed.
Now, approaching nine months since the tornado wrecked havoc in Equality and surrounding communities, the Coosa County LTRC is continuing in its ongoing efforts to help tornado survivors, which has been a long and slow process.
The LTRC was formed by the governor’s office shortly after the tornado went through Coosa County. The organization got to work with multiple agencies and individuals, holding volunteer work days and helping to assess survivors’ needs.
While things may seem to be at a standstill to some degree, the LTRC and other agencies are continuing to work behind the scenes to further assist tornado survivors. LTRC is currently waiting on case management to be completed in order to direct the organization in meeting needs.
Coosa County’s tornado relief fund, handled through the Lake Martin Area United Way, is currently at about $25,000 in donations and grants. To date only about $100 of what was donated has been spent, and that was for the purchase of an ink cartridge.
All donated funds and grants earmarked for Coosa County relief remain as such and will remain in Coosa’s fund while waiting for case management to finish. Funds will then be used as needed for survivors’ needs and assistance, with the needs expected to be high.
Lake Martin Area United Way also has funds earmarked for Tallapoosa County and Camp Hill specifically, but those are separated from Coosa’s fund balance.
The Coosa County LTRC continues to meet monthly for updates and discussion. At a recent meeting, the group decided to set more volunteer work days for ongoing clean-up efforts.
With that in mind, the LTRC has set volunteer work days for tornado survivors October 20-21 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for any group or individual who would like to volunteer to help survivors.
The LTRC appreciates anyone who is willing to help, and those interested can contact LTRC Chair Sharon Coffman at Coosaltr@gmail.com to sign up, or just show up at Rehobeth Church the day of to register.
According to what the LTRC has been told so far, the primary needs for those volunteer work days will be picking up debris and cutting up trees.
Tornado survivors are also asked to keep in mind that they may receive calls from unknown numbers while the Alabama West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church provides disaster case management.
If survivors receive a call from a number with a 334 area code, it could be a case manager trying to reach them. Survivors may also receive a text message or an email. Survivors are asked to please respond so that they can either receive assistance or communicate their recovery and be removed from the list.
Those who are unsure about a contact attempt can call the Coosa County Probate Office at 256-377-4919 to verify the person and phone number to make sure it is not a scam. Survivors can also call the Sheriff’s Office to verify the contact information.
Text messages received through the 211 system will show as being from 898211. Tornado survivors are also welcome to call 211 to request assistance if they wish.
Additionally, survivors can call Tammy Tisher, director of operations for disaster recovery with the Alabama West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, at 334-782-3536 or Kayla Richardson, disaster case manager, at 334-544-9038 for assistance or information.