Reconstructing Hackleburg: City continues to rebuild 3 years after April 27th storms

HACKLEBURG, Ala. (WIAT) — The same EF-5 tornado that killed a number of their neighbors tore apart their high school and elementary school. The town lost two anchor points and the students have been stuck in trailers ever since.

Before Tuscaloosa, before Pratt City, around three in the afternoon of April 27, 2011, a violent F-5 tornado hit Hackleburg in Marion County. National news agencies reported that the town was wiped off the map.

That was not the case, though. The town still stands, but the school buildings were leveled.

Lori Smith’s son, Jordan, was in a house that no longer exists.

“He can remember holding on to the ceiling fan until it was sucked out of his arms and he was unconscious,” said Lori Smith.

Jordan Smith is back on his feet, but after three years, there’s still no new school.

Andrew Jones was in tenth grade. He graduated last May after taking classes in portable trailers.

“A lot of people around here think that it’s going really slow, but my personal opinion, I mean, it’s a process. It all takes money. It takes government, it takes insurance, it takes time. And I like where we’re going right now. We’re getting new business in Wrangler’s built back so I like where we are,” said Jones.

Other Hackleburg residents WIAT 42 talked to think it’s frustrating to see other cities like Tuscaloosa rebuild faster than them.

“Oh yeah, you can, you can take several different cities that got hit by the tornado and they’ve already got the school back and they’ve already got plenty of businesses back. I mean, it it wiped out just about every business we had here,” said K. George.

“I mean it’s just been frustrating for our kids because they keep hearing you know we’re going to be in it last year, we’re going to be in it when school starts,” said Lori Smith.

Superintendent Ryan Hollingsworth of Marion County schools says it’s taking Hackleburg longer for a few reasons, mainly money.

The town lost almost all of its revenue base after the storm. Even before the tornado, he says the county didn’t have the property tax support structure or the reserves that most other systems have.

After issues with construction bids and weather delays, Hollingsworth now says he’s optimistic that this December will be the school’s opening date.

“I hope before then. You know I have, I have no way telling yes it’s that’s a hard date it’s guaranteed. But we are almost to the point now where the roof is on so mother nature is not a factor in that as much so we should not have any issues,” said Superintendent Ryan Hollingsworth, Marion County Schools.

Whether it’s ready in December or not- Hollingsworth promises it will be worth the wait.

“It’s a part a vital part of that community so to see that coming back up – it’s just I have goose bumps on me just talking about it. It’s just very, very exciting,” said Hollingsworth.

The athletic fields are set to open before the new school building and the superintendent says Hackleburg’s first football game this fall is expected to be a home game.

Copyright 2014 WIAT 42 News

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