ROBERTSDALE, Ala. (WALA) – When Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency Director Zach Hood talks about hurricanes now, he’s not just imparting professional expertise.
He’s speaking from personal experience.
Hood became a victim of Hurricane Sally last year when water flooded his Fairhope home. The damage was so extensive that he only recently moved back in.
“We were actually displaced from the home up until last weekend,” he said. It’s still not completely ready. We don’t have things like a kitchen sink and some plumbing in the kitchen, and the stove’s not hooked up. But nonetheless, we’re in the four walls of what we call home.”
Sally was Baldwin County’s first significant hurricane in almost two decades, darting to Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Hood was at the Baldwin County Operations Center when the storm hit in September last year, managing the county’s response. He said he found out from a neighbor that the wind has blown off his fireplace cap.
He said he figured he would get water damage from that, and he did.
“But what really got us was the amount of water that came through doors,” he said.
The damage was extensive. Hood said the house took on 3 inches of water. The family evacuated to Birmingham, and Hood says he spent seven straight nights in his office. After that, he said, the family of five lived about two months in the damaged house before finally finding an apartment.
Hood said he knows he is not alone. Many other Baldwin County residents are still displaced or still trying to secure repairs. He said he has experienced many of the same frustrations. For instance, he added, his insurance company paid the claim. But the money went to the mortgage company, which has its own set of rules for releasing it. And COVID-19 has slowed things down, he said
“I have no doubt that our recovery is being prolonged because of last year’s pandemic. … It’s very challenging,” he said. “It’s very discouraging. And it’s very tough.”
Hood said he even had to deal a contractor problem. He said he paid one who never showed up to do the job.
For people who are put out of their homes from hurricanes, Hood said, they can take advantage of a program called Baldwin Together, an initiative created to help people displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for this hurricane season, Hood said his personal experience has not changed his perspective – which is to preach preparedness and protect lives and property. That’s a job that gets a little easier after the hurricane season the Gulf Coast experienced last year.
“We were so fortunate for 16 years to the day, not to have anything in terms of tropical weather that was significant or substantially damaging like Sally was,” he said.