Alabama Tornado Recovery Still Under Way

On April 27, more than 300 tornadoes swept through Alabama, destroying farms and homes in their paths. Now, members of Alabama's equine community are working with farmers and cattle ranchers to help those hardest hit recover from disaster.

"At one point during the storm, as many as 130 tornadoes were on the ground at one time," said Nathan Jaeger, director of beef, equine, hay, and forage for the Alabama Farmers Federation. "This was a Category 1 disaster and there have only been two others in U.S. history: 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina."

Jaeger said urban areas bore the brunt of the storms' damage and that the majority of farms located in the state were spared from being directly hit by the tornadoes. Even so, he said, a total of 200 head of livestock were lost in the storms, including 30 horses.

"The horses that were put down due to (storm-related) injuries were humanely euthanized by assistant state veterinarians who were stationed around the state through the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industry," Jaeger said. "Their carcasses were disposed of in an environmentally sound way."

Those farm operators who did sustain severe property damage are still struggling to cope, said Fran Summerlin Histed, spokesperson for the Birmingham Dressage & Combined Training Association (BDCTA). The group, along with the Alabama Horse Council (AHC), the Cahaba Pony Club, the U.S. Pony Club South Region, and the Alabama Cattlemen's Association (ACA) are providing relief to horse and other animal owners affected by the storms.

"Some people lost their homes, their barns, their fences, and their equipment... everything," Summerlin Histed said. "They are just devastated."

In the storms' aftermath, some owners have placed their horses with others whose properties were not damaged by the storms. Others are fashioning makeshift corrals out of timber and other materials, Summerlin Histed said.

Yet despite the devastation, there is no shortage of forage for pastured horses, Jaeger said.

"The very fortunate thing to come out of this disaster is that we have had a good spring and pastures were in excellent condition," he said. "Farmers already had a first hay cutting (before the storms) and pastures still have good-quality forage."

As Alabama residents begin to recover from the disaster, farmers whose properties were less affected by the tornadoes are pitching in to assist their neighbors and urban dwellers in a massive clean-up and rebuilding effort, Jaeger said.

"The farmers have the equipment and the know-how to help those in the hardest-hit areas clean up debris and begin to rebuild," he said.

Even so, many in Alabama remain in need of disaster relief assistance. The BDCTA and the ACA have established foundations to collect donations for those most severely affected by the storms, Jaeger said.

"The need for material donations was immediate(ly) after the event," Jaeger said. "Now, monetary donations are preferred."

The foundations will distribute donated funds via vouchers that can be redeemed at selected retail outlets for materials such as feed, fencing and other necessities, Jaeger said.

Those interested in contributing to the Alabama storm relief effort may visit the AHC website (, the ACA website (, or the BDCTA website at (

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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