On April 27, 2011 Alabama was devastated by an estimated 28 tornadoes bringing damage to 41 counties, and forever changing the lives of so many who call Alabama home. Some tornadoes were as strong as an EF-5, with wind speeds of approximately 200 mph that caused loss of life of at least 250 people and demolished countless homes and businesses across the northern two-thirds of the state. As images of the worst severe weather event in Alabama started to appear some cities such as Hackleburg and Phil Campbell were unrecognizable. We are heart broken by the devastation this event caused so many Alabamians across the state.
Most Alabama Grocers Association (AGA) members were fortunate to have only sustained minor damage in the storms and the largest concern was the lack of power. At the peak of this disaster the power outage was widespread. Alabama Power reported 412,000, AL Rural Electric reported 232,000 and TVA reported 475,000 power outages. As of this writing, a little over week after the devastating storms, we are down to less than 4% of this power outage. Our retailers are now in the process of getting their stores back up and running to service their communities. We did have several member locations that were destroyed or severely damaged and our thoughts and prayers go out to them. Those locations include the R.L. Zeigler plant in Tuscaloosa, Hill’s IGA in Pleasant Grove, Piggly Wiggly in Cordova, Piggly Wiggly in Hackleburg, Shop & Save in Harvest and Steve’s Grocery in Concord. We also mourn the loss of a member, Mr. Ernest C. Mundie, Jr, part-owner of Steve’s Grocery in Concord.
AGA has been working with the Alabama Department of Human Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service to keep retailers informed of updates concerning SNAP benefits. SNAP recipients in 27 of the 41 FEMA Designated Individual Assistance counties received their benefits early on May 1st to help them recover from the tragic storms and SNAP recipients in all 41 of the FEMA Designated Individual Assistance counties will be permitted to use their benefits to purchase hot or ready to eat prepared foods. Additional SNAP benefits will be issued to recipients during the month of May as approved and as of May 5th, over $25 million additional SNAP benefits had been issued. Our members have been working feverishly to help those in need and service their customers.
AGA has partnered with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross to provide assistance to Alabamians across the State. We have also been working closely with state representatives to get supplies to areas in great need within their state districts and the Alabama Governor’s office. AGA has been central command for our members wanting to assist those that were devastated and will continue to do so until we are no longer needed.
When any tragedy happens, the grocery community is the first place people turn in times of need. We are very proud of what our members have been doing throughout the state and are pleased to report between monetary donations and goods provided, AGA member companies have donated over 1.5 million dollars to relief efforts in Alabama communities. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have suffered during this tragedy.