17 Ala. counties qualify for federal storm aid

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The federal Emergency Management Agency says 17 Alabama counties now qualify for disaster assistance to homes and businesses damaged by tornadoes and storms.

FEMA added seven counties to the list Sunday. They are Autauga, Calhoun, Elmore, Etowah, Marion, St. Clair and Tallapoosa.

Counties approved earlier were Cullman, DeKalb, Franklin, Jefferson, Lawrence, Marengo, Marshall, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Walker.

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At least 342 people have died across seven states as a result of the deadly tornadoes, including 250 people in Alabama. Tuscaloosa County leads the state with 39 deaths, followed DeKalb County with 33. Jefferson County has 20, while Lawrence, St. Clair and Walker counties have 14 each.

FEMA saids aid can include help paying for temporary housing, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance or other assistance programs. Low-interest loans are also available from the Small Business Administration to cover losses not fully compensated by insurance.

FEMA's toll-free registration number is 800-621-3362. There's also a number for the hearing or speech impaired: 800-462-7285.

FEMA also has a website for registration: http://www.disasterassistance.gov

In addition, six disaster recovery centers have opened in Alabama and will be open seven days a week.

FEMA announced the centers are at the Tom Bevill Center in Rainsville, Union Hill Baptist Church in Bessemer, the National Guard Armory in Warrior, the old Ashley Furniture Store in Fultondale, the National Guard Armory in Linden, and Cordova High School in Cordova.

The centers are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., and representatives of FEMA, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and other agencies are available to explain assistance programs and help people apply for disaster aid.