Bentley tours Maplesville damage

Published 4:51 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2012

State Rep. Kurt Wallace, State Senator Cam Ward and Gov. Robert Bentley stand in front of the Maplesville storm shelter. Despite a tree falling on the shelter Monday, more than 135 people were kept safe inside it.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley stopped in Maplesville on Tuesday afternoon to tour damage from the tornado that touched down in the area Monday, Jan. 23.

“At areas that we toured today and the people that we talked to, it brings back a lot of memories of the April 27 tornadoes,” Bentley said. “It looks very familiar.”

Maplesville Mayor Aubrey Latham and Gov. Robert Bentley tour damage in downtown Maplesville.

Bentley saw the storm shelter just off Alabama 139 in Maplesville that held more than 135 people Monday morning.

“You can see the result and how lives can be saved by having these all over the state,” Bentley said. “Thank goodness we didn’t lose any lives here.”

Gov. Robert Bentley thanks Christine Epperson, Maplesville assistant EMS chief, for manning the town's storm shelter early Monday.

Bentley extended his gratitude to all fire and police personnel and volunteers who responded immediately to emergencies after the storms, as well as work crews repairing power lines and poles.

Bentley recognized Assistant EMS Chief Christine Epperson for keeping the shelter open in the pre-dawn hours Monday.

“You did the right thing, and you did a great job,” Bentley said to Epperson. “It just makes me feel good to be the governor of a state where I see the kind of responses we’re seeing.”

Town Clerk Sheila Haigler said residents were inquiring as early as Sunday about whether the storm shelter would be open during the severe weather predicted to hit Monday.

The shelters were built in 2007 and have seen more use since the April 27 tornadoes.

“We’ve seen an increase after that because people have gotten scared,” Haigler said. “I can’t tell you how many times it’s been used.”

State Sen. Cam Ward and State Rep. Kurt Wallace talk as Gov. Robert Bentley tours Maplesville's storm shelter.

Haigler said the town is grateful for the countless people who have already volunteered time or staple items, such as food, water and clothing. Next on the town’s agenda will be organizing cleanup efforts.

“You can’t pick a good time for stuff like this,” Haigler said. “If there’s a blessing in all this, it’s that we didn’t have any casualties. Homes can be replaced, but lives cannot.”