May 02 2011

Cullman Times: Shelby: 'This is Hell'

CULLMAN — After taking a tour through the most damaged parts of the City of Cullman Friday,  U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby returned to the Cullman County courthouse simply proclaiming, "This is hell."

The Senator's stop in the area was part of a tour of damaged communities all across the state. Earlier in the day he had surveyed the carnage in Tuscaloosa. 

"This looks like a war zone. I have seen some of the damage in the rest of the state, but this is some of the worst that I have seen," said Shelby, who was visibly disturbed by the devastation he witnessed throughout the downtown area. 

Shelby promised help for the county as cleanup crews, rescue workers and residents scrambled to return to their homes and places of business to whatever measure of normalcy they could achieve amidst the rubble. 

"The people of Cullman are strong, and they're good people," said Shelby. "And seeing the way this community has come together lets me know that they'll be okay. We are going to help, but we can't do it all."

Earlier in the day the senator, along with President Obama and the director of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), visited other portions of Alabama to gather perspective of just how widespread Wednesday's damage had been. 

"I am going to suggest to the president that Alabama's status be stepped up to a major disaster," he said. "This is the worst I have ever seen."

Though the destruction remains in many areas, crews are making progress throughout the county to care for infrastructure issues. 

"We've got most all of the roads in the county cleaned up," said Commissioner Darrell Hicks. "Now we've moved a lot of the county equipment to the city and are assisting with the cleanup there." 

Cullman Mayor Max Townson, after Shelby's tour of destruction, noted that government help will be vital to the area. A bulk of the aid to be provided from FEMA will be for overtime pay for the hundreds who are providing safety and public service to the area. Skeleton staffs will remain at the city hall throughout the weekend, and crews will continue to work around the clock, said the mayor.