April 25, 2018
By Marlee Moore
A tornado struck Calhoun County Farmers Federation President Wendell Wilson's farm March 19, destroying his barn, equipment and grain silo. He is shown with Alfa Insurance claims adjuster Reece Newman.
For Wendell Wilson of Calhoun County, family took on new meaning March 20 as neighbors pitched in to clear debris and salvage machinery following storms the previous evening.
“A lot of memories were blown away last night,” said Wilson, whose childhood home near Jacksonville was devastated in the wake of an EF-3 twister.
Storms ripped across Calhoun, Cullman, Cleburne and neighboring counties March 19. The storm destroyed a cotton picker, sprayer, equipment shed and silo on Wilson’s property. The National Weather Service confirmed at least nine tornadoes hit north-central Alabama that night.
The storm’s 150 mph winds and baseball-sized hail struck near spring planting — a pivotal time for Wilson’s cotton and cattle farm.
“I expressed concern to my Alfa Insurance agent about getting my sprayer in the field, and he said he’d take care of it,” said Wilson, the Calhoun County Farmers Federation president. “If people ever went through a situation like this, they would appreciate Alfa and the claims department for taking care of their customers.”
The day following the tornado, Alfa Agent Jamie Cosper was on site with adjusters analyzing Wilson’s claims. Over 70 adjusters worked more than 4,000 claims statewide following the storms, the structural damage of which Cosper compared to the April 2011 tornadoes that ravaged north Alabama.
“We’ve had mixed damage reports — from total-loss houses to homes and cars with minor damage,” said Cosper, who spent 3 1/2 hours traveling 1/4 mile home from a storm shelter after the storm. “From a claims standpoint, our customers appreciate Alfa in times like this. They know we’re here for them.”
Felled trees and power lines, homes with structural damage, ruined equipment and banged up vehicles with shattered windows were common sights around Jacksonville, Cosper said. Farms, residential property and Jacksonville State University sustained damage. The storm caused no fatalities.
Alfa Insurance and Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell thanked agents and adjusters for their diligence helping customers get back on their feet.
“Before some customers could file a claim, their agent was checking in to make sure they were all right,” Parnell said. “We share in their sorrow over lost possessions and memories, but are grateful for the chance to help them recover, refocus and rebuild.”
Federation members supported the Wilsons, too, with friends across town and across county lines checking in and volunteering time and equipment.
“Families and people from the Federation came out to help us,” Wilson said. “Taking care of each other when we’re in need — that’s what this organization is about.” n