Calera officials praise city for preparedness in Wednesday’s storms

Published 11:16 am Thursday, April 28, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

CALERA – Calera officials Thursday morning praised the city for its response to the severe weather and threat of tornadoes that moved through the area Wednesday afternoon and night.

“I’m extremely proud of the way our community and our departments worked during this event,” Police Chief Sean Lemley said. “While it was a horrible event for a lot of communities, we’re fortunate that we didn’t receive any damage. I’m proud of the preparedness of our community.”

The preparation began early Wednesday, hours before the storms approached.

A command post was established at the Calera Police Department, where Lemley, Fire Chief Sean Kendrick and Public Works Director David Jones coordinated the city’s efforts, Lemley said.

“This is not our first rodeo,” Jones said. “We do this every time we have a hurricane, snow event or anticipated tornadoes. We’re getting well-versed at it, and we’re trying to provide the best service we can for our citizens.”

The Calera National Guard Armory was opened as an emergency shelter.

Police units patrolled mobile home parks and used loudspeakers to instruct residents to seek shelter from the coming storm at the armory.

As the storm got closer, Lemley said police cruisers were parked at strategic locations throughout the city.

Officials at the command center watched the news on one TV screen and live Doppler radar on another.

About 130 city residents – as well as several Montevallo residents – sought shelter at the armory, Lemley said.

“I think they responded extremely well,” Lemley said. “For us to have 130 people show up at a shelter is phenomenal.”

Calera Mayor Jon Graham left his family at home and rode out the storm with the citizens at the shelter.

“He was there within minutes after it was opened and established,” Lemley said, “and he stayed there until we closed the doors last night.”

Spared from any significant damage, Calera turned its attention toward assisting other areas of the state that did receive damage.

The police department sent two employees to assist in another county, Lemley said.

The fire department has five or six employees assisting in Jefferson County, Shelby County EMA Director Jeff Edwards said.

At 11 a.m. Thursday, two public works employees were on their way to Arab to deliver a generator to run wells.