3 weeks on, Alabama waits on federal relief for Zeta damage

3 Weeks On, Alabama Waits On Federal Relief For Zeta Damage
Cameron Keith

A toppled tree lays on top of a car in Talladega, Ala., on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, as Tropical Storm Zeta sped across the Southeast.

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — More than three weeks after Hurricane Zeta barreled across the Southeast and left destruction in its wake, Alabama is still waiting on a federal disaster declaration and the emergency relief that comes with it, according to state and federal agencies.

Al.com reported Wednesday that a Federal Emergency Management Agency official said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s office had not made an official disaster declaration request connected to the Oct. 28 storm.

The Republican governor’s office referred comments to the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, the news outlet reported, and a state EMA official confirmed Tuesday that a damage assessment was in process for 18 Alabama counties affected by the storm.

A conference call update was scheduled for Wednesday, officials said.

Millions of people were left without power and at least six were dead by Oct. 29 after Zeta slammed into Louisiana and moved across the South into Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, shattering buildings and downing trees.

A request for a major disaster declaration that would go toward reimbursement for debris cleanup was submitted “in the days after the storm,” Alabama EMA spokesman Greg Robinson told Al.com. But he said the state agency was continuing to work with local jurisdictions to complete damage assessments and send them to the federal level.

“This is a normal part of the process,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Mobile County Commission voted Monday to send a letter to federal officials encouraging federal disaster assistance, Al.com reported.

“I don’t understand what the holdup is,” Al.com quoted Commissioner Connie Hudson as saying. “We have people with debris sitting out there wondering why it’s not being picked up. We’re turning to our federal legislators for help and support in this.”

The state’s initial request did not supply enough data to FEMA for the agency to act, said U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, of Fairhope. The Republican legislator said he was still in contact with federal and state groups to get additional data submitted.

“The state of Alabama hasn’t been able to pull this all together because some of the areas are smaller and rural,” he said.