Alabama town hit by tornadoes bans FEMA trailers
CORDOVA, Ala. -- James Ruston’s house was knocked off its foundation by tornadoes that barreled through town last month and is still uninhabitable. He thought help had finally arrived when a truck pulled up to his property with a mobile home from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Then he got the call: Single-wide mobile homes, like the FEMA one, are illegal in the city of Cordova.
The city’s refusal to let homeless residents occupy temporary housing provided by FEMA has sparked outrage in this central Alabama town of 2,000, with angry citizens filling a meeting last week and circulating petitions to remove the man many blame for the decision, Mayor Jack Scott.
Mayor Jack Scott discusses the city’s decision to ban FEMA mobile homes as temporary housing for tornado survivors. Residents are angry about the decision partly because the city allowed its police headquarters to move into a mobile home similar to the FEMA rigs, and the temporary City Hall where Scott stands is in an even smaller trailer.
Ruston and many others view the city’s decision as heartless, a sign that leaders don’t care that some people are barely surviving in the rubble of a blue-collar town.
“People have to live somewhere. What’s it matter if it’s in a trailer?” asked Felicia Boston, standing on the debris-strewn lot where a friend has lived in a tent since a tornado destroyed his home on April 27.
Scott has heard all the complaints, and he isn’t apologizing. He said he doesn’t want run-down mobile homes parked all over town years from now.
“I don’t feel guilty,” he said. “I can look anyone in the eye.”
Located about 35 miles northwest of Birmingham, Cordova was hit by a pair of powerful tornadoes on April 27.
An EF-3 twister with winds of at least 140 mph slammed into the town around 5:30 a.m., knocking out power and damaging numerous buildings. An EF-4 with winds around 170 mph struck about 12 hours later, killing four people and cutting a path of destruction a half-mile wide through town.
Residents whose homes were destroyed assumed they would be able to live in one of the hundreds of long, skinny mobile homes that FEMA is providing as temporary housing for tornado victims. After all, the Cordova Police Department, a pharmacy, a bank and City Hall all have moved into similar trailers.
But the city enacted a law three years ago that bans the type of mobile homes provided by FEMA, called single-wide trailers. Older single-wide mobile homes were grandfathered in under the law and double-wide mobile homes are still allowed, Scott said, but new single-wides aren’t allowed and a tornado isn’t any reason to change the law, even temporarily.