PELHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Recovery efforts continue in Pelham – one of the hardest hit communities in October’s historic flooding event. Many of you have reached out to CBS 42 to see what help is still available to fix up your homes.
“Nobody can prepare for that,” homeowner Eddie McClain said. “The city can’t prepare for that.”
McClain’s home was one of dozens hit hard the night of Oct. 6, 2021. He is a resident in the Chandalar South Townhomes community. He and his neighbors told CBS 42 that they had not been able to legally fix the flood damage after getting a stop work order from the City of Pelham, unable to get a building permit.
“I don’t have a license so I’m going to fix my house,” McClain said. “So if they want to come in here and take my license then good luck finding one because I don’t have one.”
City officials said building permits have always been required to do construction.
“There weren’t a lot of resources to get out and make sure that people were pulling permits before they were doing work,” City Manager Gretchen DiFante said.
DiFante said since the historic flooding, the city has been hard at work collecting 107 tons of debris from that flood event and assessing properties that were damaged – to ensure it follows National Flood Insurance Program requirements.
“It was a shock,” DiFante said thinking back to the Oct. 6 flood event.
During their assessment, DiFante said about 350 properties had damage—with about 90 of them having more than half of their current value destroyed. This deems those homes substantially damaged.
“Our flood was on October 6 and a lot of things about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) were revamped on October 1,” DiFante said.
Many of the substantially damaged homes are in the Chandalar South Townhomes community. City officials said Pelham could have lost its NFIP status if the damaged properties were not inspected.
During a Dec. 14, 2021 presentation to the Chandalar South Townhome community, the city said the NFIP had issued payments of over $5 million in flood claims in Shelby County, with about $4.1 million to residents and businesses in Pelham through 2016 – much of which were repeated payments flooded between three and nine times.
DiFante said the Chandalar South Townhomes community was built in different phases, and many of the homes were built before there was a FEMA floodplain map. Now, based off new FEMA maps, DiFante said the townhomes in Chandalar South need to be lifted higher than one foot above the base flood elevation to be compliant with national guidance.
“I think that’s why the substantial damage is there,” DiFante said. “They’ve flooded so many times, and really it gets to a point where your home is not a safe place.”
City officials said the homes must be lifted so homeowners are eligible to continue work.
“I won’t say it’s impossible [to lift the homes, but I don’t think FEMA and all of us together have that much money,” McClain said.
The State Emergency Management Agency has joined forces with Pelham to stay engaged with the recovery process to get right information to national programs for additional money.
“We’ve been working since the event to try and get help and immediate resources to folks who need help in those areas,” EMA Director of External Affairs Gregory Robinson said.
Additionally, the Small Business Administration now has a temporary office at the Hoover Recreation Center to help people in the application process for a recovery loan to do work. The office opened last week.
“We do help homeowners and renters recover from any storm or event that may happen,” SBA Public Affairs representative Terrell Perry said. “We’re here in Alabama to make sure that the folks of Alabama recover.”
According to Perry, loans are available at very low rates and can be paid off up to 30 years. She said they can be eligible to cover both your structure and contents.
“Since we are the long-term federal recovery partner, SBA offers loans specifically for underinsured and uninsured losses,” Perry said.
If you haven’t already applied through FEMA, External Affairs Officer Ryan Lowry-Lee said it is crucial to start your application sooner than later by phone, online or on the FEMA app well before the February 21 deadline.
“We’re doing everything that we can to make sure that it reaches the population that needs to hear it the most,” Lowry-Lee said.
McClain said the townhomes should be deemed uninhabitable
DiFante said the city has applied for a FEMA buyout program to buy the flood-prone properties, get rid of the homes and keep the land open. There is still a chance, she said, that funding may not be available or that Pelham may not make the cut.
“We are going to keep pushing and pushing and pushing,” DiFante said. “We’re going to call everyone to the table.”
If the FEMA buyout program does not work, the city said it will keep working with NFIP. DiFante said it is crucial to know your rights, make sure you are familiar with your insurance policy and to have your family in a safe place.
DiFante said any work you need to do to feel safe in your home – you should go ahead and get done. She said the city engineer can help you work through that process.
The SBA Recovery Center is open Monday through Friday at the Hoover Recreation Center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Perry said if you have applied to FEMA that it will refer you to the SBA.