Twisters Slam South Alabama
As residents in six Alabama counties continue to pick up the pieces of their lives following the March 1 tornadoes, Alfa Insurance employees are working day and night to help.
"We are deeply saddened by the tragedy that struck Alabama, and our hearts go out to the families who lost loved ones," said Alfa President Jerry A. Newby. "While it will take time to heal from this disaster, Alfa Insurance is working hard to process the claims of our policyholders."
Coffee, Wilcox, Dale, Henry, Dallas and Montgomery counties were all hit by the storm and have been declared federal disaster areas.
Newby said he was pleased with the response by Alfa and its employees, noting adjusters were in the field as soon as it was safe.
"In some cases, our adjusters had to wait for the streets to be cleared to get in and begin processing claims," he said. "Both of Alfa's Mobile Response Units were up and running quickly to help process claims in Enterprise. Our response plan was in place, and our employees have worked nights, days and throughout the weekends to get our claims processed."
As of March 8, Alfa had received 1,494 property and auto claims from the storm, including 787 from the Enterprise area.
Newby toured Enterprise following the storm, stopping to talk to policyholders. Many told him they appreciated Alfa's quick response.
Stanley and Gloria Jackson were filing a claim on their home at the Alfa office on Main Street in Enterprise two days after the storm. They expressed a sense of relief and gratitude.
"Almost as soon as the storm blew over, there were Alfa employees going through our neighborhood taking care of their customers," Mr. Jackson said. "It gave me real comfort to see they were out so soon and already helping people. I tell you it made me glad that I have Alfa insurance.
"Our house got hit pretty hard. We have pots and pans all over the place catching water that's leaking in from the roof. Some of the walls were cracked, and the bricks were cracked on the outside. We are so lucky compared to lots of other folks. We weren't physically hurt in any way. It's a miracle more people weren't killed."
Mrs. Jackson witnessed some of the worst tragedy the storm brought to Enterprise. She works in day surgery at Medical Center Enterprise. Within minutes after the storm blew over, patients began streaming into the emergency room, she said. Many of them were students from nearby Enterprise High School.
"You wanted to just cry; it broke your heart so bad to see them," she said. "But everyone was busy working to help everyone else. I guess it did bring out some of the best in people - they just reacted to help each other."
Alfa policyholders Billy and Judy McGhee have lived less than a block off Main Street in Enterprise for more than 20 years. He was out of town when the storm hit, but Mrs. McGhee was home alone that day.
"She was clutching the carpet in the hallway to keep from getting sucked out," Mr. McGhee said. "When the wind stopped, rescuers pulled her through the window on the front of the house. It's a miracle it didn't crush her."
The McGhees' house sustained heavy damage. Bits of their belongings were scattered about in a nearby cemetery. Within hours, the sounds of chainsaws filled the air and large equipment began clearing the streets. The disaster brought lots of volunteers who didn't wait to be assigned to a particular area; they just began moving debris to the street.
"A church group from New Orleans showed up and worked two days at our house with a loader to help clear our yard," Mr. McGhee said. "It's been unbelievable. We've had countless people bring us food and water. It's just been amazing. There are lots of good people in this world."
Thirty miles away David Faulkner of the Echo community in Dale County shared the gratitude expressed by the Jacksons and the McGhees as he walked through the rubble of his two brand-new poultry houses that were flattened.
"Me, my son (Freddy), and our field man were inside the egg room when the tornado hit," Faulkner said. "My son just dove under a table, and about that time, we knew the houses weren't going to stand. We got under there with him.
"My son was praying pretty hard out loud, and I was praying also. If it had lasted much longer, I knew we were going to get pulled out of that building. When it was over, we were banged up and bruised up, but besides that, we were fine. When you have your life, nothing else matters."
Statewide, more than 350 homes were destroyed, and 18 poultry houses were flattened, according to the State Department of Agriculture and Industries.