I spent last week in Tuscaloosa, Alabama helping build new homes with Habitat for Humanity. It’s been six months since the tornado, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had no knowledge of current conditions, and I didn’t know how quickly a city could rebuild after such devastation. It was also surprising to learn of some of the unexpected challenges people face when they go to rebuild.
As we drove through the city, the path of the tornado was still so evident. It was eerie to be able to see exactly which buildings got hit and which survived. Some places have been demolished but many are still just as they were after the storm.
One challenge people face when rebuilding after a major disaster is meeting new codes and requirements. It’s not always enough to simply replace what was there. For instance, some older homes were built on very small lots. Since then, the minimum allowed lot size has increased. Those homeowners are out of luck because insurance companies only cover what was lost, not what is needed to bring an old property up to the latest standards.
This whole area was filled with buildings, billboards, and trees before the storm, and now there’s nothing. You can also see how close the tornado came to destroying the hospital in the background.
Most homes in the area were damaged beyond repair, and Habitat for Humanity has focused on new construction rather than trying to rehab homes. The first day we spent at a new site with many other volunteers pouring concrete, installing floor joists, and getting the subfloor down. Our team was only on this site the first day, but by the end of the week the other volunteers were starting on the roof trusses.
Every new home Habitat is building will have a safe room that is completely independent from the rest of the house.
Most of our week was spent at a second location installing flooring and molding, laying tile, hanging doors, blowing insulating and painting. The homeowner for this house is Camilla. We got a chance to meet her, and it was a real honor working on her home.
We all know the importance of staying hydrated, and thankfully Anheuser Busch made a donation….. of water.
Each day was as exhausting as it was rewarding. It was a joy to see the progress on the house, and I felt really privileged to have been able to help.