McMinn County marks three months since tornado

March 1, 2017: Storms roared through McMinn County Wednesday, bringing with them some painful memories from three months ago. That's when an E-F-2 tornado ripped through the county.

As severe weather roared through McMinn County Wednesday, the storms brought with them some painful memories from three months ago. 

That's when an EF-2 tornado ripped through the county, damaging more than 200 homes and sending more than a dozen people to the hospital. 

At least 48 families are still in temporary housing. 

Wednesday's tornado watch triggered fear in a community that is still working to recover. 

Many families have spent the last three months cleaning up debris, and still have a lot of work to do. 

"We had two doors blown open, and then part of our roof and our bedroom was pulled off," said Shelly Shields. 

In the three months since the tornado caused about $200,000 in damage to her home, Shields and her family have been living in a temporary rental unit while the old home undergoes repairs. 

"You try not to get paranoid about it, but it's like, 'Really? Another storm?'" Shields said about Wendesday's tornado watch. 

Shields stayed in a relative's basement for shelter until the storm moved out of the county late in the afternoon.

McMinn County Emergency Management Director Tom Trotter monitored alerts from the National Weather Service all day. 

"National Weather Service yesterday said 'If you're going to watch any system this year, you better watch this one,'" Trotter said. 

"Now they're saying, even if we don't get a tornado with this squall line, there's still a possibility of some coming behind it like it did in 2011," he said. 

But this community is still recovering from November. Mangled sheet metal still dangles in the trees of the hardest hit area. 

"We still have a lot of debris that is yet to be cleaned up out in the field," said Mary Brown, who coordinated the multi-agency resource center after the tornado.

That center is now closed, but Brown said there is still assistance available through the United Way in Athens. 

In the meantime, the county has appealed for Presidential Disaster Declaration funds under the Trump administration after President Obama denied the original application.

EMA Director Tom Trotter said the property damages did not reach the threshold needed to qualify for those funds, although Small Business Administration loans are available.

He said the county officials had no estimated timeline for when they might hear back on that appeal. 

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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