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The road to recovery

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By Joseph P. King II

UP THE VALLEY—Recovery efforts are in full swing as residents attempt to recuperate from damage left by the tornado that ripped through part of Campbell County last week.

Winds from the EF-3 tornado reached as high as 150 mph and left four Campbell County homes destroyed and four others damaged. It also destroyed 10 homes in Claiborne County and left as many as 20 damaged there, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency reports.

No injuries or deaths were recorded, but residents have been displaced as a result of the natural disaster.

Now, the recovery begins.

In an effort to help residents cope, relief station volunteers passed out donations until Wednesday at Wells Spring Church.

“This weekend we go it (the donations) organized and this morning we started distributing it,” Wells Springs Church Pastor Keith Hampson said Monday afternoon. “We’ve had about 30 families through here so far. Up until Sunday afternoon we were feeding people lunch and dinner every day. We’ve calculated that we have served over 6,000 meals in six days.”

Items distributed include hygiene supplies, water, tarps, clothing and food.

Hampson said there hasn’t been anybody completely displaced to where they need a sheltered. Most of those with damaged or destroyed homes have gone to live with their families. One such person is Robert Smith, who was picking up relief items Monday afternoon.

“I wasn’t able to see it [the tornado] from where we were — we were right over the hill from where it tore that store down,” Smith said. “I lived here all my life and I would have never expected a tornado.”

Even though donated supplies have dissipated, Hampson said he, along with volunteers, plan to help those affected by the tornado for the longterm.

“We have one family in our church that is pretty much displaced from their home, so we are hoping to have them be able to rebuild,” Hampson said. “We have some other families who have had their homes destroyed, but their plans are not to rebuild.”

Hampson anticipates it will take six months to a year for normalcy to return to the area.

Volunteers are also cleaning up the wreckage after the storm.

Headquartered atCommunity Missionary Baptist Church, TEMA, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and other agencies are working together to clear debris and level ruined homes.

“We have crews going around picking up vegetative debris and burning it over here at the site that has been approved by TDEC,” said TEMA Regional Director Bill Worth. “Hazardous goods are being transported to a landfill.”

With approximately 100 workers cleaning the estimated 35,000 cubic yard area, Worth anticipates clean-up being completed by the start of next week.

“We ask people here, unless they have business here, to stay out of the area,” Worth said. “We have heavy equipment working, so it is for their own safety.”

Additional clean-up is being done by The National Guard.

“What we’ve done as a safety precaution is we are working with state departments and they are going out in front of us and shutting down the road,” added National Guard Captain Eric “Mad Dog” Madison. “We do have a plan in place to minimize that risk, however, what the community can do is slow down everywhere and make a lot of room for large military vehicles. The No. 1 thing is to slow down, especially on narrow roads.”

Local efforts have been underway to clear the roads since the tornado struck last Sunday by the Campbell County Road Department, but most workers returned to regular posts Monday.

“We cut trees out of the road to make sure the roads were passable so emergency vehicles could get through,” said County Road Superintendent Dennis Potter. “There was a tremendous amount of debris. There were a lot of roads that had a lot of trees in them.”

Potter praised his crew for their work during the clean-up process and also thanked volunteers who contributed to the efforts.

“It was a devastating event for a lot of people,” Potter said. “We were very lucky with all the damage that nobody got hurt. That’s the miracle of the whole thing.”