Commissioners commend others for help after storms

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The Walker County Commission discussed Friday the efforts of so many people to deal with the aftermath of the tornadoes and flooding that took place in the county on Easter Sunday. 

The commission met in emergency session to approve a construction agreement for the Mandy Williams Road and resolutions needed for state work to move underground a Providence water line that had been on the Brown Bridge in District 3. 

Burrough said just before the meeting that he was anxious to get back to his district that morning, what with all the work to do. 

"We've about cleaned up the whole town in three days," District 2 Commissioner Jeff Burrough said of Carbon Hill, which is in his district. "We average 125 loads a day," he said, noting crews are working from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at night. "We'll have the majority of it knocked out by today," save for a few big things.

Crews are basically picking up debris, collected up by volunteers and set off to the side of the road, he said, in addition to some that has fallen in the road. 

During the meeting, Chairman Jerry Bishop said he had been out in the districts to observe and commended the district commissioners and their employees, noting that they worked from mid-afternoon Sunday until about 1 a.m. Monday, and then came back early Monday morning. 

He said Walker County Emergency Management Coordinator Regina Myers had done a "great job," a sentiment repeated by a number of the commissioners. He commended the Walker County Sheriff's Office for its work. 

"I'd like to commend the Mountain Eagle for being up there in Carbon Hill," Bishop said, saying the newspaper has done a good job during the aftermath.

He then turned to District 4 Commissioner Steven Aderholt and said, "And this guy pulled a miracle," referring to his work in getting help from the state to quickly get repairs for a sinkhole on Mandy Williams Road. Aderholt also was directly involved in getting rights-of-way agreements from residents in the area, and Bishop heard from a friend about how well Aderholt had worked on the situation.

"It's not been done since I've been here, to get anything done like this," Bishop said. 

He said Burrough worked into the night on tornado recovery, the crew of District 3 Commissioner Ralph Williams was cutting timber into the night, and "Keith (Davis, the District 1 commissioner) is going to have his out, no matter what. They all have done a great job."

Davis said there was really too many people to thank in the aftermath of the recovery, adding it was "humbling" to see people work together so well since the tornadoes and flooding took place. 

"Folks might say something negative about our county, but if they could see what we saw this week, that negativity would go to the side," he said. 

He pointed out the disasters took place on a holiday, but no one had to worry about waiting for people to call in with help. 

"The phone was ringing off the hook, saying 'What do you need?'" he said. "We have a tremendous staff, a tremendous county and tremendous citizens and family and neighbors. "I summed it up as neighbors helping neighbors and that is really what I saw this week. This commission was calling each other, saying, 'What do you need? What do we need?'

He joked that Aderholt got "everybody but the National Guard in his district," but Bishop quickly pointed out a National Guard truck was seen there Thursday, offloading pipe. 

Davis pointed out the "devastation in Carbon Hill," and was thankful it was not worse than what it was. He referred to debris piles and people "putting their life on hold now as they clear out their yard." 

District 1 was fortunate as few trees were down in the storm, he said. 

Davis also commended fire departments, saying those responders are always out first. "Even before our crews are out, they're out," he said. Those comments were echoed later by the other commissioners. 

Also, Davis commended people for getting debris to the road, as the county cannot do work on private property. 

"Jeff made the decision. He called me Monday and said, 'Keith, we're going to clear this debris. Folks need the help. If we don't, we don't know how long the debris will be here.' He was already scrambling and working, so I sent a crew every day to assist in that."

A man in Carbon Hill asked Davis one day if he was the District 1 commissioner. Davis said he was, but there was no boundary line in giving help. He told him if something happened in his district, the other three commissioners would come to assist him. 

"We get elected by district, but we represent the whole county," he told the man. "Wherever the need is at is where we go." He said the man couldn't get over all the commissioners were helping each other. 

Davis said the Walker Baptist Association helped to tear down a lean-to on an elderly woman's house, so that electricity could be restored. Four or five at a time would roll in somewhere to tarp a roof. "There is story after story after that," he said. 

Later, Davis said Burrough Sunday night had texted Davis he was taking care of trees, but Davis responded that he needed to take cover, as lightning was occurring and a tornado was about to hit. 

"Jeff was out there helping," he said. "That's what we do when things happen. We're 24/7. When a storm hits, we're out."

Burrough got a big laugh in the meeting when he joked, "Man, (forecaster James) Spann sort of let me down.

"I made one huge mistake this week," he said. "I thought it was an all clear at 2:30 or 3 when the first round came up. I get a 911 call, so here I go," with eight men down to Corona and Oakman. That's when the tornado in Carbon Hill was hitting. 

"From now on, the straight lines and the winds will go through before I get anybody out," he said to laughs, later saying, "I heard it from Jill (his wife) all the way home." Davis kidded, "He'll have radar equipment in every truck."

Burrough said on Monday he had never seen so many people "come out of nowhere" to help residents, saying he was also humbled by that and the trust placed in him to help. Crews were working all day Monday just to get trees out so vehicles could travel down the road. Help came in to get trees off people's houses. 

"I'm telling you, by Monday afternoon, I think nearly every place had somebody getting their debris off and getting it out close to the road," he said. Crews started collecting it on Tuesday morning, and he noted Davis sent a crew from his district to assist. Equipment was also sent to help. 

Burrough said he regretted he could not help in District 4. "(Aderholt) had his problems and I had mine," he said. He noted Davis also stayed with him all day one day in the recovery. 

Burrough also thanked many of the groups who have feed displaced people during the week, including P.J.'s in Boldo, Pizza Bar, Son's Smokehouse, Raising Arrows, Salvation Army, Bill and Sons and others that he was not aware of. "I think they all need to be recognized," he said. Burrough hoped that a larger list of those entities can be compiled to put in the Eagle, as well as first responders and people offering other help. 

He said a number of churches, such as Desperation Church, First Baptist Church of Jasper, First Baptist Church of Carbon Hill and Living Light Church of God, all helped out, adding a larger list is needed. "We can't name them all,"  he said. 

Burrough and Davis even recalled that a 14-year-old boy walked out of his home one day after playing video games, with the county crews happening to be at his home. Burrough identified him on Facebook as Dalton Chandler, calling him a unique young man. 

"He started talking to us and introducing himself to us," Burrough said. "Before too long, he was picking up and doing. He worked all day until about 8:30 p.m. that night." He added one doesn't see many 14 year olds do that. 

Williams said he appreciated the other commissioners offering help with equipment and helping each other. "We just take up the boundary line and get the job done," he said.

He later said after the meeting his shop was flooded, washing piping down the creek. However, he said all the piping was recovered when floodwaters subsided. His district got a dozen 911 calls for his crews to handle fallen trees and other needs others could not handle.

Aderholt said in the meeting he noted how quickly the firemen came to help, and that like others, they would go to other areas to help if they were through in their own areas. 

"I don't care what happens in this county. We're all going to help each other," he said. 

Commissioners also noted the work of power crews from Alabama Power, Alabama Forestry and law enforcement, including the Sheriff's Office and Carbon Hill police, in helping out over the past week. Burrough noted officers from Winfield and Sumiton were even helping in Carbon Hill. 

"And this was all in the middle of a pandemic," Aderholt noted. 

Bishop thanked citizens and volunteers, as well as County Engineer Mike Short. Burrough also thanked Walker County Solid Waste officials, noting the county landfill will accept tornado debris for free from residents (although not regular contractors) through April 29.