Alfa adjusters began servicing claims when skies cleared following storms that ripped through the South in late April, killing three people in Limestone County and one in Tuscaloosa County. National Weather Service officials reported at least 18 tornadoes were confirmed in Alabama during the storms April 28 and 29.
Alfa had 2,458 claims in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi from the storms as of May 7. Forecasters warned the weather could turn nasty, and the storm hit the Athens area around 5 p.m. April 28.
“It was raining as hard as I’ve ever seen it rain,” said Alfa policyholder Pat Turney, who along with her husband, Al, lives on Highway 72 west of Athens. “I told him we needed to get to the storm shelter. It’s a good thing we did.”
The Huntsville National Weather Service office reported the tornado that hit their community was rated at least an EF-3. The rating estimated peak winds between 136-165 mph.
As the storm approached, the Turneys’ neighbors and a stranger driving down the busy highway in front of the their home sought safety in their storm cellar. Their home suffered extensive damage, as did several outbuildings, fences and a barn.
“After the storm, once we saw the house, I knew it wasn’t safe to stay here,” Pat said. “The roof was cracked, and the ceiling was sagging. The roof on the back corner of the house was gone.”
The Turneys were among hundreds of homeowners clearing debris and trying to dry out after the storm, which also dumped several inches of rain.
“We look a mess,” Pat said, smiling. “We’re just happy to be alive. Our clothes were all soaking wet, and these old clothes and shoes are all we could find to put on that were dry. We spent the night in the Days Inn. We’ve had so many people offer to help us. It makes me feel good.”
The Turneys’ farm was among the homes visited by Alfa and Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell and Alfa Adjuster Luke Collier the morning after the storm.
“We’re here to help you,” Parnell told the Turneys. “Alfa sells service. Some companies sell insurance; we sell service. We’re going to take care of you.”
A few miles down the road, policyholder Wes Kennedy was on top of his roof securing tarps in anticipation of more rain. He climbed down to meet Parnell and Alfa Adjuster Kris West. As they surveyed the damage, West offered the homeowner reassurance.
“We’re going to take care of you,” West said. “Don’t worry. That’s what we’re here for.”
Immediately after the storm, Alfa moved additional adjusters into hard-hit areas to expedite service.
For more storm photos of the Athens area visit the Federation Flickr page.