Repair costs mount locally from Jan. 12 tornado and related storm

Jan. 25—The EF1 tornado on Jan. 12 caused more destruction to 74-year-old Larry LouAllen's Lawrence County farm than the killer twisters of 2011 and 1974, and damages from the storm are expected to total $400,000 in Morgan County and as much or more in Lawrence.

LouAllen and a farm worker were still clearing the debris at LouAllen Farms on Monday from the eight greenhouses that were damaged or destroyed. LouAllen said he is totaling his losses, and they aren't pretty.

"We're going to lose $60,000 worth of revenue this year," he said about losing the greenhouses. "We'll have to cut some workers loose. In February, we would have about 12. We have two now. We would be getting the greenhouses ready. Now we don't have them. We lost all of our houses and space. We've had to cancel some orders because we don't have the space to put them in."

He said six greenhouses were totally destroyed and two others damaged.

His home and barn along Lawrence County 177, west of Moulton, were covered by insurance but he said the insurance company doesn't cover his greenhouses. "We're going to lose about $174,000, not counting our lost revenue," he said.

Lawrence County Emergency Management Director Chris Waldrep said damage estimates are still coming into his office.

"We haven't compiled all of the estimates yet," he said. "We're easily looking at hundreds of thousands of damage across the county."

He said most of the damage occurred in the Moulton city limits, along Lawrence County 177 and in the East Lawrence area.

No deaths and two injuries were reported in Morgan, Lawrence and Limestone counties from the EF1 tornado that packed peak winds of 104 mph with a track of more than 30 miles. More than 14,000 electricity customers lost power in the three counties. Both injuries were in Morgan County and not considered life-threatening.

"We're very blessed not to have any reports of injuries to 911 or the EMA office," Waldrep said of Lawrence County. "Our thoughts and prayers to those families in our state that did suffer the loss of loved ones and friends."

The Jan. 12 storm system left six people dead in south Alabama. Five counties are eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance. The designated disaster area includes Autauga, Dallas, Elmore, Coosa and Hale counties.

It doesn't appear any local counties will qualify for federal aid.

In Lawrence County, Waldrep said seven residential structures received major damage and another 14 received minor damage. One business was listed with major damage and one with minor. He said the Moulton Parks and Recreation Department's damage to its new complex and to the Moulton Recreation Center roof is listed as minor.

"We likely won't reach the federal threshold for assistance," Waldrep said. "That's 25 structures that had to have major damage to receive some Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance. And that is major damage by federal standards."

Lawrence County

LouAllen's farming operation was dealt a substantial blow. He said he usually has vegetables and flowers growing in his greenhouses. "Our big floral baskets are our big sellers," he said. "We sell them all here. We're 95% retail out here."

LouAllen, who has been farming since 1974, said the tornado also toppled and destroyed 100 apple trees, 40 peach trees and about 150 oak trees on his farm.

"It's going to take three to five years to recover from this one storm," he said. "My oldest son has told me he wants to come back and farm here. If he didn't want that, I'm not sure I would be starting over at my age."

Presently, LouAllen plans to take down the ruined greenhouses and "put in a grow yard. We'll have a couple hundred thousand strawberry plants on it."

Looking around at where the greenhouses once stood, LouAllen said things could have been worse from the storm.

"I can build the greenhouses back, but you can't replace life or limbs," he said. "In my 74 years I lived on this farm, we've never had a tornado here,"

Moulton Parks and Recreation Director Deangelo McDaniel said he doesn't have a damage cost estimate or timeline for repairs yet to the new softball/baseball complex, which received extensive damage.

"We're still gathering estimates on what repairs will cost," he said. "We're going to play youth season on existing fields while the travel complex is repaired."

The Lawrence County Medical Center lost portions of its roof on the west side of the building in the Jan. 12 storm. Hospital CEO Dean Griffin said he doesn't have a property damage cost figure because the hospital is still talking with the insurance company about a couple of issues, but repairs are progressing.

"The portion of the roof that was completely torn off has been repaired," he said. "We're still cleaning up some of the rain damage inside that section and putting ceiling tiles back in."

He said the damaged inpatient unit will house patients again in three to five days.

Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Co-op had a maximum of 4,268 customers without power during the storm. Joe Wheeler spokesman Wes Tomlinson said 20 utility poles in Morgan and Lawrence counties were damaged and had to be replaced.

The Relax Inn motel along Alabama 157 near Walmart had a major portion of its roof blown off and sustained substantial water damage. A sign on the door at the motel reads, "temporarily closed." The parking lot was empty Monday.

Several houses along Market Street in Moulton were damaged when trees uprooted and fell on them.

Morgan, Limestone counties

In Morgan County, EMA Director Brandy Davis said 35 residential structures and nine businesses received major or minor damage in the storm.

Decatur's wastewater treatment plant, Joe Wheeler EMC and Decatur Utilities all received significant damage to their property, Davis added.

"My damage assessment is roughly a lump sum of $400,000, maybe more," she said. She said state and federal assessment teams will be in area later this week or next and her office will know more after those inspections.

Decatur Utilities' electrical system also was affected by the tornado and other high winds, with a peak of 6,100 customers without power at approximately 8:50 a.m. Jan. 12. Nine 46-kilovolt transmission poles and one 40-foot distribution pole were damaged and had to be replaced, according to Joe Holmes, spokesman for DU.

An estimate of repair costs wasn't yet available Tuesday, Holmes said.

In Limestone County, EMA Director Eddie Gilbert said the damage across the county was minor.

He said the southern part of the county had about six trees down and a house on Garrett Road near Calhoun Community College was damaged when a tree fell on it.

"Most of them were around Garrett Road, down in that area," Gilbert said. "We had some down (in) the Decatur portion of Limestone County, right down past Sandy Road. ... Calhoun had a couple of pieces of metal blown up on some of their baseball and softball facilities. But I think it was just minor damage."

Athens Utilities Manager Blair Davis said the electric system received minor damage near Calhoun.

"We initially had about 4,300 customers out of power," he said. "Overall, we had to replace six power poles. I don't have a total yet for manhours or costs." or 256-340-2442. Twitter @DD_Wetzel. Staff writer Erica Smith contributed to this article.