Leader Blues

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

TOP STORY > > Volunteers help clean up

By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer

Offering a helping hand, volunteers came out Saturday with chainsaws roaring and hammers pounding to areas of Cabot damaged by Thursday night’s tornado.

A small command post was set up at the former Bancroft building parking lot to direct volunteers to where they were needed in the city.

“We are very blessed to have all the volunteers to come out and help the city,” said Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams. He said the largest expense for the city on Saturday was buying pizzas to feed the volunteers.

The damaged was caused by what has now been identified as an EF-2 tornado that came from the southwest in the direction of the Hwy. 5 interchange and took a hit-and-miss trail 100 to 200 feet wide across the central part of the city knocking down trees, buildings and fences and ripping off roofs from Mags Trucking on Hwy. 367 to the end of Confederate Drive in the Shiloh subdivision on Hwy. 38.

“It was like the tail was just whipping around,” said Jerrel Maxwell, the city’s head of public works. “I don’t think it ever touched down. If it had we would have really had trouble.”

No damage estimate is yet available, but the mayor is trying to get the city declared a disaster area so that residents and the city will be eligible for disaster aid.

The city contracted Matt Dennis, owner of Dennis Hauling and Scrap-ping, to clean up steel and metal debris lying in the streets.

Dennis is not charging the city for the work. In exchange, his family and crew is taking the twisted metal that litters the streets and yards along Richie Road to scrap metal dealers for recycling.

Dennis said on Richie Road, Stacy Street and Kilgore Street, he has hauled 15 trailer loads of debris.

Members of the Cabot Fire Department assisted in the cleanup efforts on Sharon Cove by using cutting torches and reciprocating saws to cut the metal remains of a mini-storage building unit that was blown against a house into smaller manageable pieces.

Another group helping those in the city was the Faith Missionary Baptist Church Disaster Relief Team at 300 Bill Foster Hwy.

That unit was out Friday and Saturday assisting families needing help with storm recovery.

Doyne Plummer, volunteer coordinator, said the team was formed a couple of years ago to offer help to church members and to the community in times of need.

Plummer said the office of emergency management, the mayor’s office and the police and fire departments know the group because of their help in the past.

The command center directed some of the volunteers to assist with the team.

“Our objective is to have the unit with six to eight men available at all times. We have 100 volunteers and about 50 men available. We would go further out in the state, if we had available lodging,” Plummer said.

The disaster team’s trailer is stocked with ladders, ropes, plastic wrap, fire extinguishers, helmets, safety goggles and chainsaws.

On Saturday afternoon, a group of 10 worked on the team’s third job.

The crew cut a tree near a curve on Hwy. 89 across from the high school.

Then, across from the command center, the group cut a tree leaning on a house on Richie Road with six children in it.

Their last job of the day was removing a large fallen oak tree at 2420 Hwy. 367. The tree had landed on three cars, a carport and part of the house.

Barbara Burk, who just moved to Butlerville from Illinois, was taking pictures of the tornado damage when she stopped at the house on 2420 Hwy. 367, where the disaster relief crew was working.

“I saw the guys with ropes around their backs. I thought they could get hurt, so I helped by using my truck to pull the logs off the house. I was glad I could do something,” Burk said.

Leader staff writer Joan McCoy contributed to this report.