On Wednesday night, April 13, 2022 between 10:00 and 10:30 PM, an EF0 tornado, with winds of 65 to 85 miles per hour, passed through Eutaw and Greene County, Alabama. It did the greatest damage in the William M. Branch Heights community, which is a part of the city of Eutaw.
“More than 40 homes in Branch Heights were visibly damaged and we are still discovering less obvious damage to bricks and foundations which may have been loosened and shifted,” said Anita Lewis, Greene County Housing Authority Executive Director.
Lewis continued, “We have had more than 100 people displaced, made homeless, by this storm. Some have found shelter with family and friends but we have placed 24 families in a nearby hotel, near Greenetrack, which is 8 miles from their homes. Senator Bobby Singleton and Representative A. J, MacCampbell are seeking state resources to extend hotel stays as needed.”
Branch Heights was built with HUD funds in the 1970’s as a major project of the newly elected African American controlled Greene County Commission. It contains over two hundred single family homes. Most of the homes are still rental units, under the control of the Greene County Housing Authority, but about a third of the homes have been purchased by the homeowners, as part of a special program, where people who had rented for 15 years, were able to purchase their units.
Lewis said that the Greene County Housing Authority’s insurance company was still evaluating the damages but that 12 homes have only roof damage and these will be the first to be repaired, so families can return to their units. She said at least four families that owned their own homes did not have insurance to rebuild.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell who was in Greene County, on Tuesday morning, April 19, 2022 for a town hall meeting in Boligee, said, “My team and I toured the devastating storm damage in Branch Heights which has displaced over 100 residents. It was important to me to see this damage for myself and to join with the local community as they begin to rebuild. While it won’t bring back the homes and belongings that were lost, I was honored to buy lunch for some of my constituents who were affected. We all have a role to play when our community is in need. Now is the time to lend a helping hand.”
Earlier at the Boligee meeting, Sewell in answer to a question from Commission Chair Allen Turner, on the need to secure a FEMA disaster declaration for small areas like Branch Heights, affected by storms, said, “Congress will have to change the FEMA designation but we will work to secure SBA long term low interest loans for rebuilding homes and businesses. We will also work to identify other state, Federal and private resources that can help with rebuilding.”
In an interview on Monday, Lewis said, “The City of Eutaw, their police and street department are involved and helping us; the County, the Sheriff’s Department are also here and working very diligently on getting things put together and assessed and also assisting with our residents. This storm has been a challenge to all of our government and private aid agencies, including the Red Cross.”
“We had to put displaced people in hotels because we have no vacant public housing units in the area. We may have to seek help from adjoining cities like Tuscaloosa, to house our residents. Now we have to arrange food, clothing, transportation, clothes washing and other services for our people,” said Lewis
School Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones announced at recent board meeting that he will re-route school buses to accommodate students who have been placed at local hotels and other locations. Other assistance from the school system may also be available.
Lewis said, “We need all the help we can get for our residents here in Branch Heights, especially the children. We also need volunteer manpower to clear debris and help with rebuilding. We are at the Greene County Housing Authority are willing to accept any assistance and donations. You can call us at: 205-372-3342 or by email at:firstname.lastname@example.org