Putnam County lacks tornado cleanup volunteers amid COVID-19

Local News

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Putnam County officials said it’s been a slow process to clean up everything the March EF-4 tornado left behind.

COVID-19 has caused volunteers to dip from hundreds, into the single digits this week. On Wednesday only three people offered their time to help pick up debris.

“There’s hardly anybody here to help.  It’s a big issue with it,” EMS Director Tyler Smith said.

Smith said there’s a drive thru line to service any volunteers from their vehicles to save time, and practice social distancing during the pandemic. But whether it be time since the tornado, or the fear of COVID-19, it’s put a damper on clearing the destruction.

“We still have some homes that need to be demolished and pushed up to the edge of the roads,” Smith said.

On Hensley Drive, one of the hardest hit areas, there is still piles of concrete foundations ready to be hauled away. But without volunteers to help move things, they continue to sit idle.

Another factor impacting volunteers, is this week’s tornado in the south that hit Chattanooga. Putnam County Fire Chief Thomas Brown went down to assist with needs there on Monday.

“Their local resources were covering the storm area and we were outside the storm area and we were just covering calls basically for them,” Brown said.

Brown said it was a quick trip, but he was happy to help out just like so many others did for Putnam County during the March tornado.

But Smith said it’ll be weeks and months before Putnam County starts to figure out what a “new normal” will look like.

“It’s going to be a while before we can get back to a normal lifestyle, but we are working on that,” Smith said.

Smith said clean up volunteers will only be requested for another three weeks. At the beginning of May officials will start to plan a rebuilding phase for Putnam County.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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