SHELBY COUNTY, Alabama (WIAT) – Highland Lakes continues to recover after deadly tornadoes devastated Alabama nearly two weeks ago.
Dozens of houses were damaged, some considered a total loss. One house had its second floor blown off when the storms passed. Residents and contractors said it would take months for the cleanup to be completed.
It wasn’t just the Highland Lakes residents who were affected. Nicholas Hopson is the USPS postman for the neighborhood. He was delivering mail when the storm approached. He was unable to enter the house and seek shelter, so he was content with what he could.
“The best thing to do was park off the street,” said Hopson. “Shut down the truck, close all windows. Park the car. And just pray until it’s burst. “
Hopson said it was as close as it was to a tornado. He said that as the storm passed, he was on a Facetime call with his children, praying to God that he would be well. Looking back, he feels lucky to be alive.
“I’m happy to be safe,” he said. “I’m glad that no one in the area was hurt. And that I can still continue my work. “
After the storm passed, Hopson completed his mail delivery route. The trees blocked the road, so he went on foot, making sure that each resident had their mail and packages.
Mike Hartsock was in his storm shelter when the weather got tough. Going out to see the damage was a shock, he said.
“It was incredible, really,” said Hartsock. “I was amazed when I left and looked at what I saw.”
Hartsock and other Highland Lakes residents recently received a warning that FEMA is unlikely to offer assistance in their area and that residents must pay for the removal of trees and debris.
“I hope we can get their help,” said Hartsock. “We could certainly use it. The cost of removing trees and debris is extensive. And it is not covered by most insurance. ”
Shelby County’s EMA director said that for private property on private roads, not receiving federal financial assistance is common.
Hartsock said the past few weeks have been filled with neighbors helping neighbors.
“We had people here the day after the storm that helped us dig our home,” he said. “And get some of the important things out of the way and get the trees from our house.”