City of Tuscaloosa Storm Recovery Efforts FAQ
As we continue to recover from the April 27th storm, the community and media have various questions about the City’s role in the recovery process. To address any misconceptions and answer reoccurring questions that are forwarded to City departments, Incident Command has developed an FAQ that can easily be referred to as questions arise. This document will be updated on a consistent basis as answers change and questions are added. If you have any questions, please contact Meredith Lynch at (205) 248-5700.
To view a PDF version of the FAQ, please click here.
Housing / Homeless
Zoning and Code Requirements
- Q1: When will the City have all of the debris totally removed?
A: The City of Tuscaloosa has removed 99 percent of storm debris since the April tornadoes and continues to remove debris daily. The City has enacted the demolition process of properties eligible for voluntary demolition, and those considered a nuisance by the City Council. The City of Tuscaloosa hopes to have all storm debris removed as soon as possible.
- Q2: What can I do if my neighbor still has debris on their property?
A: Citizens are encouraged to call 311 to initiate the storm debris removal process.
- Q3: Who is responsible for the removal of debris from the right-of-way?
A: If a property owner hires a contractor to remove storm debris, it is the contractor’s responsibility to dispose of the debris. If the property owner and/or volunteers complete their own storm debris removal and place it on the right of way, TDOT and/or ESD will remove the debris.
- Q4: Is DRC Emergency Services LLC hiring sub-contractors for demolition?
A: DRC Emergency Services LLC is not currently hiring subcontractors to complete the tornado-related demolition projects in the City of Tuscaloosa. DRC Emergency Services LLC is a private contractor that can be contacted at (251) 353-3581.
- Q5: What should I do if there is storm debris in a creek near my home?
A: Please call Tuscaloosa 311 to report any storm debris in creeks and waterways.
- Q6: What should I do if I see debris on the right-of-way?
A: Please call Tuscaloosa 311 to report debris on the right-of-way. 311 operators will contact the appropriate department to correct the situation.
- Q7: Why is the Tuscaloosa Police Department Code Enforcement posting violation notices on the vacant lots?
A: The City Code of Tuscaloosa Ordinance Chapter 13, section 67 and 68 was amended on January 3, 2012 to include other types of debris in the removal of litter and accumulation of trash on premises and vacant lots within the city.Once the notice has been issued, the property owner will have seven days to cut weeds, grass or other vegetation or remove litter, trash, construction debris or storm debris. After the notice has been posted for seven days, the Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation (TDOT) will have the right to go on the property and have the property cleared at the expense of the owner.
- Q8: How do I know if my property has received a notice by the Tuscaloosa Police Department Code Enforcement?
A: Notices will be physically placed on the property if the property owner is in violation of City Code.
- Q1: How long will the City of Tuscaloosa allow tornado-damaged houses stay in the areas affected by the tornado?
A: The City of Tuscaloosa has hired DRC Emergency Services LLC to demolish structurally unsound buildings registered through the voluntary demolition program or considered a nuisance by the Tuscaloosa City Council.
- Q2: I signed a right-of-entry form for demolition. When will my property be demolished?
A: Citizens may call Incident Command at (205) 248-5039 to determine the status of their property in the demolition process.
- Q3: What are we doing about slabs that are being left by demolition?
A: The removal of slabs after demolition will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and may be considered under the property maintenance code.
- Q4: I am a local contractor. How can I help in the demolition process?
A: Any contractor with labor and equipment that would like to donate their time and efforts may contact the Tuscaloosa Area Volunteer Reception Center at (205) 248-5045.
- Q5: What if a house does not qualify as a nuisance, but has obvious damage and is in need of repair?
A: The City of Tuscaloosa has ordinances related to property maintenance that will address these properties.
- Q1: How can I donate?
A: Cash or Checks may be made out to the “City of Tuscaloosa Storm Recovery Fund” and can be delivered to City Hall or mailed to the City of Tuscaloosa, P.O. Box 2089, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35403. You can also donate securely online using PayPal by visiting www.tuscaloosaforward.com. All proceeds from the sale of Tuscaloosa Forward commemorative bracelets or magnets benefit the City of Tuscaloosa Storm Recovery Fund. These can be purchased online at www.tuscaloosaforward.com, at the Tuscaloosa Water and Sewer Department, or the Tuscaloosa Revenue Department both located at 2201 University Boulevard, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
- Q2: Are you still accepting clothing, toiletries, cleaning supplies, food and other donations?
A: Yes! Temporary Emergency Services is still accepting physical donations in response to the April 27th tornado. Please call (205) 758-5535 to find out how to donate.
- Q3: What are donations to the Storm Recovery Fund used for?
A: Donations to the “City of Tuscaloosa Storm Recovery Fund” support long-term recovery efforts in the City of Tuscaloosa and surrounding communities. The City of Tuscaloosa Storm Recovery Fund supports five (5) critical needs: Public Service; Parks and Green Spaces; Education; Social Services; and Public Infrastructure.
- Q4: Is my donation tax-deductible?
A: Yes! Donations to the City of Tuscaloosa Storm Recovery Fund of cash, real estate, and goods are used for “public purposes” and are therefore deductible as a charitable contribution. For very specific questions about donations of business inventory, donations of services or donations disaster response activities, please consult a tax professional.
- Q5: When will the City of Tuscaloosa begin distributing funds collected during the tornado?
A: Donations to the City of Tuscaloosa Storm Recovery Fund supports the revitalization of public service, parks and green spaces, education, social services and public infrastructure. As public projects related to these areas develop, funds will be expended appropriately.
- Q1: Will homeowners receive any of the $16.6 HUD allocation to the City of Tuscaloosa?
A: City officials have developed an allocation plan for the HUD funding. To view the allocations, please click here.
- Q2: Where can I get help with my utility bill?
A: Citizens in need of assistance to pay for a utility bill may call Temporary Emergency Services (TES) at (205) 758-5535. TES is located at 1705 15thStreet, Tuscaloosa, AL.Citizens may also call Community Service Programs of West Alabama at (205) 758-4756 for financial assistance in paying utility bills.
- Q1: How do I know if my property is in the floodway?
A: If you suspect that your property may be impacted by the floodplain, please call 311 to request a determination.Citizens can also visit www.tuscaloosaforward.com/recovery-information/flood-map-revisions/ to review preliminary flood map revisions in the City of Tuscaloosa. These results classify areas of the floodway, but are subject to additional revision and final approval by FEMA.
- Q2: What does it mean if my property is in the floodway?
A: No filling or permanent structures are allowed within the floodway. Structures must be elevated or flood proofed within the flood fringe per the floodplain ordinance. A Land Development Permit from the Office of the City Engineer must be acquired prior to receiving a building permit for property affected by the floodplain.
- Q3: When will the floodway maps be approved by FEMA?
A: The City of Tuscaloosa hopes to have the floodway maps revised and approved by FEMA by July 2012.
- Q1: Can the City help me find permanent housing since I have been displaced by the tornado?
A: Yes! The City has the necessary resources (housing coordinators and counselors) in place to assist any resident displaced by the tornado in finding permanent housing. The City can also help any qualified residents transition from rental to homeownership. If citizens have questions regarding housing assistance, please call our Housing Counselor at (205) 248-5096.
- Q2: How can I become a candidate for Habitat for Humanity?
A: Please see the following section of the Habitat for Humanity website that details how to apply for a Habitat for Humanity House: http://www.habitat.org/getinv/apply.aspx.
- Q3: How can I become a candidate for Samaritan’s Purse?
A: Please see the following in regards to the Samaritan’s Purse U.S. Disaster Relief on how to apply for a Samaritan’s Purse House: http://www.samaritanspurse.org.
- Q4: Why are homeowners not rebuilding yet?
A: Certain homeowners are not rebuilding yet due in part because there is a gap in the amount of insurance proceeds received by the homeowner, FEMA assistance and the actual cost to rebuild on their property. Other residents who did not have their homes insured and did not receive an adequate amount of funding from other agencies, such as FEMA, have been unable to rebuild on their property.Also, the number of homes destroyed by the tornado included older rental units for which the rent charged prior to the storm was fairly low. Due to the cost of new building construction, landlords are likely to rebuild with higher rates due to the uncertainty of population demands for housing units in Tuscaloosa.
- Q5: Does the City have homeless shelters?
A: No, the Salvation Army’s homeless shelter – the City’s largest and primary general population homeless shelter – was destroyed during the April 27tornado. However, the City is collaborating with multiple organizations to assist homeless residents in finding shelter.Those seeking shelter can call 211, a 24-hour hotline maintained by the United Way, to find locations helping the homeless in the Tuscaloosa area.
- Q6: How can the United Saints Recovery Project help me?
The mission of the United Saints Recovery Project is to assist economically distressed neighborhoods recover from disaster and become more resilient to the disasters of the future. Just days after the April 27th tornado, staff and volunteers responded with crucial manpower, leadership, tools, and supplies to support the disaster relief efforts. On September 1, they opened an office in Tuscaloosa to partner with homeowners to help rebuild their homes. We provide gutting, roofing repairs, gutter repairs, siding installation/repair, sheet rock and dry wall installation/ repair, flooring installation/repair priming, painting, landscaping, fence installation/repair, etc. to those affected by the April 2011 tornadoes. For homeowners needing assistance, contact Susan at (205) 523-5828 or visit www.unitedsaints.org.
- Q1: When will the businesses on 15th Street return?
A: The City of Tuscaloosa has issued more than 298 commercial permits in the tornado recovery zone, and continues to work with business owners affected by the storm. By passing the new mixed use zoning regulations in the tornado recovery zone, the City anticipates the commercial industry to take advantage of the flexible new codes and begin the rebuilding process as soon as possible.
- Q2: Why is the city buying property in the recovery areas and how will it be used?
A: The City of Tuscaloosa is currently in the Implementation Phase of the Tuscaloosa Forward Plan. Based on the comments and ideas of Tuscaloosa citizens, the City of Tuscaloosa has begun purchasing properties in the recovery area to accommodate improvements for traffic patterns and enable school and City resources to be rebuilt in accordance to the key initiatives of Tuscaloosa Forward.
- Q3: What businesses have moved to Northport?
A: Hobby Lobby and Big Lots were formerly located in the City of Tuscaloosa. They have decided to reopen their business in Northport, and may possibly reopen in Tuscaloosa at a later time.
- Q4: What City infrastructure will be rebuilt?
A: Fire Station 4, the East Police Precinct, the Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Services Department, the Police Athletic League, Public Safety Logistics, the Water Meter Shop and the Sewer Pump Shop will all be rebuilt.
- Q5: Why was a portion of 7th Avenue East abandoned?
A: The turn lane is part of a larger plan to upgrade the intersection of McFarland Boulevard and 15th Street to improve traffic flow along both thoroughfares. The City of Tuscaloosa has asked ALDOT to make the improvements and expect to sign an agreement soon to proceed with the project.
- Q6: What businesses are not allowed to build back? And why?
A: All businesses may build back, but some are considered as restricted uses and subject to spacing standards. Specifically, those businesses will be limited to being no closer than 300 feet to each other and no more than one per block face. Examples of such businesses include tattoo and body piercing shops, tobacco stores, check cashing businesses, pawn shops, payday and title loan businesses, minor vehicle repair shops and sexually oriented or adult-based businesses.
- Q7: What do I need to do to start rebuilding my home?
A: Please contact Planning and Development Services at (205) 248-5110 to begin the rebuilding process.
- Q8: When will Tuscaloosa look normal again?
A: The City of Tuscaloosa continues to take steps towards a better tomorrow by addressing the needs of our citizens. To monitor the city’s recovery and see how Tuscaloosa is moving forward, please visit www.tuscaloosaforward.com.
- Q1: Will the City help citizens receive storm shelters financially?
A: The individual shelter grant assists individual homeowners in the installation of a safe room or shelter at their primary residence. The homeowner is responsible for the match. For more information, please contact the City’s Emergency Management Agency at (205) 248-4960 for more information.
- Q2: Is there grant money available to assist with storm shelters?
A: Yes, grant money is available for individual safe rooms/shelters. However, no new applications are being taken at this time as the application period closed last year.
- Q3: How is the grant money allocated for storm shelters?
A: Alabama EMA and FEMA review individual grant packets and award individual shelter grants as they are considered. EMA has been communicating with applicants as questions arise to obtain information needed for the project.
- Q4: Where can I find a community shelter near Tuscaloosa?
A: The City of Coaling has one community shelter and the City of Brookwood has two community shelters that meet FEMA standards. For more information, please call EMA at (205) 248-4960.
- Q5: When will I find out if I can have a storm shelter on my property?
A: Individual Shelter Grant applicants will be notified by certified mail as the grants are awarded. Once Individual Shelter Grants are awarded, the individual is responsible for completing the shelter in a certain amount of time as indicated by their notice.
- Q6: When will new community storm shelters be built?
A: There are a number of community shelters being reviewed by Alabama EMA and FEMA in urban and rural areas. Once the applications are reviewed, Alabama EMA will formally announce the location and timeline for the building of the shelter(s).
- Q1: Will the greenway go through my backyard?
A: The current Tuscaloosa Forward Plan, including the proposed greenway, has been approved by the City Council and is still currently conceptual. Almon and Associates is working with the City of Tuscaloosa to develop a Tuscaloosa Forward Detailed Plan that implements the planning phase of Tuscaloosa Forward.Based on all of the citizens’ comment from numerous public meetings, the Detailed Plan demonstrates the best route for the “CityWalk” that accommodates the wants and desires of the community.
- Q1: Is the City of Tuscaloosa still in need of volunteers?
A: Yes! There is still a need for volunteers in the City of Tuscaloosa to help recover from the devastating storm of April 27th, 2011.
- Q2: What volunteer opportunities are available?
A: Volunteer opportunities change on a daily basis in the City of Tuscaloosa. To see what upcoming volunteer opportunities are available in Tuscaloosa, visit www.ttownvolunteer.com, or call the TAVRC at (205)248-5045.
- Q3: How do I register to volunteer?
A: Individual volunteers can register by submitting an individual volunteer information form at www.ttownvolunteer.com. Volunteer groups should designate a leader to complete an individual volunteer information form on behalf of the group. Volunteers can also register at the TAVRC located at 2512 University Boulevard East.
- Q4: Why should I register to volunteer?
A: By registering through the TAVRC, volunteers will receive proper identification to serve in recovery area and benefit from a more coordinated effort through the City of Tuscaloosa.
- Q5: What kind of assistance can the TAVRC provide?
A: The TAVRC provides opportunities for debris clearing, demolition and rebuilding projects. As the City of Tuscaloosa continues to make steps towards recovery, various volunteer opportunities become readily available.
- Q6: How can I ask for volunteer assistance?
A: To receive volunteer assistance, please call (205) 248-5045 or visit www.ttownvolunteer.com. The TAVRC will match your needs to volunteer resources as soon as they become available.
- Q1: Will the City readjust my water bill since they switched garbage pickup to a once-a-week service?
A: The City has not experienced a reduction in costs due to the once-a-week service and will not make any adjustments.
- Q2: Will I have to pay to have my water reinstated?
A: If the property owner was living in the tornado recovery zone and their home was destroyed or damaged significantly enough where they could no longer reside there, the property owner will not have to pay to have their water reinstated.
- Q3: Will my water bill be charged for when I wasn’t living there after the storm?
A: Property owners will not be charged if they were living in the tornado recovery zone and their home was destroyed or damaged significantly enough where they could no longer reside there.
- Q1: Will the new codes require citizens to rebuild with safe rooms? The current building code does not require structures to be rebuilt with safe rooms. The City of Tuscaloosa is currently in the process of developing a committee to provide technical assistance and advice to consider incentives and requirements for installing of safe rooms in new commercial and multi-family construction.
- Q1: Is there a program that will cut down trees that are in danger of falling on my house in the event of another storm?
A: Citizens are encouraged to call 311 to assess this situation and contact the appropriate department to handle this situation.
- Q2: How much did the City lose in damage costs?
A: Based on the amount of city infrastructure, private property and commercial business affected by the April 27th tornado, the City of Tuscaloosa estimates a total of $250 million in losses.
- Q3: Why did the City seize Graceland Apartments?
A: The majority of Graceland Apartments appear to have been untouched since it was damaged in the April 27th tornado. The City Council has unanimously voted to seize the property, through eminent domain powers, to include the property in the potential site of Alberta Elementary School and/or Fire Station No. 4.
- Q4: Why did I not hear the tornado sirens from inside my home?
A: Outdoor Warning Units are intended to warn people outside, not for people inside their residence. The best means of notification is the NOAA weather radio or certain smartphone applications as Outdoor Warning Units can be taken out of service due to lightning strikes.