FEMA Wants Tornado Relief Funding Back, Snow & Cold Weather Across Alabama

Feb 9, 2016

Tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, Ala., April 27, 2011.
Credit NWS Birmingham / Wikimedia

The federal government says it wants its money back after auditors claim Tuscaloosa improperly received more than $1 million in aid following the 2011 tornadoes.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General has determined the Federal Emergency Management Agency should reclaim about $1.2 million in storm assistance funding.

The audit takes issue with the city's decision to pay a Florida company, Thompson Consulting Services, about $875,000 to file documents with FEMA seeking repayment for costs associated with the tornado. The report says the city didn't seek the lowest possible bidder. The audit also takes issue with another $300,000 in insurance money.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox says the city disagrees with auditors' findings, as does the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.

Tuscaloosa was approved to receive about $10.1 million in total assistance from the federal government after the tornado.

Today and tomorrow will be good days to bundle up throughout much of Alabama.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a chance of snow today and colder than normal temperatures. The mercury is expected to plunge as far as the low twenties tonight and tomorrow night.

Kris White is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. He is forecasting snow in the northern and northeastern parts of Alabama.

“We’ve gotten total snowfall amounts of anywhere from perhaps a half-inch in the Huntsville area, and as you move generally north and east from here, close to an inch in parts of southern middle Tennessee and northeastern Alabama. We are most concerned about the plateau -- there may be accumulations there of over an inch.”

The National Weather Service predicts lower than normal temperatures through this week and next. But the agency expects things to warm back up later this month.

The frigid weather tonight and tomorrow night has advocacy groups for the homeless on alert. The forecast, with temperatures below freezing, prompted officials in Birmingham to open up Boutwell Auditorium. The facility will serve as a warm shelter for people with nowhere to go.

Don Lupo is the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Citizens Assistance for the City of Birmingham. He says the city can always use donations to support the people served at Boutwell and other homeless shelters in Birmingham.

“We’re always looking for personal hygiene items: toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant. Travel-size shampoos are very important. Travel size body washes. You know, you don’t have places to store things, so travel size items are very important.”

Birmingham’s efforts to provide warm shelters for the homeless saw some controversy last month. A campaign stop by Democratic Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders left Boutwell Auditorium unavailable as a cold weather shelter. The homeless had to go elsewhere.

Thousands of revelers will spend this Fat Tuesday partying in Mobile, which claims to be the home of the nation's oldest Mardi Gras celebration.

The Mardi Gras event in New Orleans is better known. But Alabama's port city is also alive with parades, a ball and neighborhood festivities to mark the coming of the season of Lent.

The first of four parades through downtown Mobile begins later this morning. Parades also are planned in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach today. More than 50 groups put on parades and balls on the Alabama Coast during the Carnival season, which stretches from near Thanksgiving to Ash Wednesday.