Campus Tornado Damage - 11/9/02

Storm aid on way

By RACHAEL MYER
rmyer@jacksonsun.com
Nov 14 2002

Residents pick up pieces, FEMA surveys damage

CARA EASTWOOD/The Jackson Sun - Laura Berkemeyer searches through her belongings in her Union University dorm room on Wednesday, hoping to find an art project she's already completed. The freshman from Pennsylvania has been evacuated from her room in the Blythe Residence Complex along with four other roommates because of extensive damages from this weekends tornados.
CARA EASTWOOD/The Jackson Sun - Laura Berkemeyer searches through her belongings in her Union University dorm room on Wednesday, hoping to find an art project she's already completed. The freshman from Pennsylvania has been evacuated from her room in the Blythe Residence Complex along with four other roommates because of extensive damages from this weekends tornados.

FRUITVALE - James Paul Brooks Jr. ducked as he walked onto his porch Wednesday.

The Crockett County man was too tall to fit through the crevice left after an F2 tornado crumpled his front overhang Saturday night. The storm also smashed rows of trees around his house and overturned his dog house while three of his hounds were inside.

Brooks hopes his insurance will help him recoup the loss of his personal belongings - he rents the house, so he doesn't have to worry about structural damage.

"I ain't heard nothing from them. I reported it Monday," he said.

About a dozen people have gone to the American Red Cross disaster assistance site at the Gadsden Community Center during the past two days. Officials have given out food, clothing and shelter, said worker-in-charge Ed McKinney.

Tennesseans also might get help from the federal government. President Bush on Wednesday declared 16 counties disaster areas. They include Crockett, Carroll, Gibson, Henderson and Madison in West Tennessee. This opens the door for millions of dollars in federal aid for residents and businesses through grants and loans.

"We had a considerable amount of damage around Medina. Anything that can help folks get back on their feet, I'm pleased," said Gibson County Executive Ronnie Riley.

Teams of Federal Emergency Management Agency officials on Wednesday surveyed Crockett, Gibson and Madison counties and other parts of West Tennessee.

Jerrel E. Reasons, Crockett County Emergency Management coordinator, estimated that locals will have the area cleaned in about two weeks.

"The general public is doing really good - neighbors helping neighbors. The community has really pitched in," Reasons said.

About 120 Bells Nursing Home residents were evacuated Saturday night. The home's roof was damaged.

The side of Medina Elementary School's gym was destroyed, and some Union University buildings were damaged.

In Medina, where officials estimate about $1.4 million worth of damages, large tree trunks and limbs still lay in residents' yards Wednesday.

Lonnie Kee, 79, has lived in the neighborhood near Medina Elementary School since the late 1940s. Many of her neighbors' roofs were partially destroyed in the storms.

"You just thank the Lord we didn't get hurt and our houses weren't destroyed," Kee said.

Some of her fellow parishioners at First Baptist Church helped clean up her yard on Sunday.

But cotton fields near Fruitvale on Wednesday still contained tin, buckets, cups and other materials that were thrown about during the storms.

Connie Tinker, 39, rocked her 4-month-old grandson Wednesday afternoon as workers stomped around her roof, repairing shingles.

Tinker, who lives off U.S. 70-79 near Fruitvale, considers herself lucky.

The tornado tore off some shingles and threw a bed frame on top of the roof. But that wasn't too bad, she said, compared with some neighbors whose trailers were squashed.

So on Sunday, Tinker and a few others went to houses along the highway and patched up windows and holes to prevent more damage from threatening rain. Home Depot donated materials and some employees helped, she said.

"We were thinking we'll go help somebody that didn't get so lucky," Tinker said.

- Rachael Myer, (731) 425-9756

For help

  • Madison County Highway Department officials will haul away debris from last weekend's storms and tornadoes. Residents must bring the rubbish to the curbside or county right-of-way for pickup. Officials will first start picking up around Northwest Acres and then Pipkin Road. Other areas will be announced later.
  • Madison County Emergency Management Agency officials will try to help residents whose uninsured property was damaged. For help, call 427-1271.
  • Union University students who suffered vehicle damage should contact Gary Carter at the school's Business Services office, 661-5025.
  • American Red Cross officials set up a disaster service center at 229 High St. in Gadsden. That office will close at 5 p.m. Friday, but residents can go to the Jackson office. Gibson and Madison county residents can receive help at the Jackson chapter, 718 N. Highland Ave. Carroll County residents can go to the Red Cross chapter at 111 Church St. in Huntingdon.
  • The Red Cross has established two toll-free numbers for the public: (800) 443-2265 for disaster welfare inquires and (800) HELP-NOW for people who want to give donations for disaster relief.