NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s been two years since an EF-2 tornado hit North Nashville, damaging properties and sending residents into recovery mode.
“When you look at the progress that many of our neighbors have made in rebuilding their homes, it certainly does not feel like it has been two years,” said Tennessee State Representative Harold Love, Jr., a North Nashville native. “But then again, there’s a caveat to put in there that you think about the fact that some people are still in the process of trying to make sure that their home is in a better place than it was after the tornado.”
The lawmaker is also the pastor of Lee Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in that same community, and immediately after the storm hit he said the faith community showed its true purpose.
“The immediate priority was to make sure that persons who did not have their supplies for water, for food would have a place to acquire that. That’s one of the reasons why I went to our church, Lee chapel, where I’m pastoring, to make sure that we had the capability to set up a relief site, even if it was just people to pick up these basic supplies of water, non-perishable items,” Love recalled. “Then we knew that we will start the process later on of trying to make our space available for people to start the rebuilding process.”
He said the flood from May 2010 taught them the recovery would not be a quick one but it came with frustrations.
“You think about people who this is their home, and their home has now been severely impacted, if not completely destroyed. And the frustration of dealing with having to get the insurance payments to come in quickly,” he said. “Keep in mind that as we’re doing tornado relief, we had this huge announcement about COVID-19 starting to spread. So that cut down on the number of volunteers who have come in to help you out. “
The first COVID-19 case was announced in Middle Tennessee two days after the March 3rd tornado.
“We had FEMA in the church, right, set up to deal with people’s applications. We had a FEMA truck in the church parking lot, also,” Love recalled. “Literally, when the word came down from DC about how COVID was spreading they had to pack up and leave. And so you had people who were literally on Monday, for example, setting up an appointment for FEMA, and on Wednesday, FEMA had to leave.”
Love explained that it’s been a complex rebuilding effort because many of the homes were being rented, and people are still working with insurance companies to get repairs done. After the storm hit there was also a campaign by the Equity Alliance with the hashtag “Don’t Sell Out Norf,” which was an initiative to stop what they called rapid gentrification in North Nashville and to meet the financial needs of tornado victims.
Representative Love said the other gentrification issue that was exacerbated by the tornado was that many North Nashville homes were underinsured. He explained that while some insurance companies did pay above and beyond a home’s policy value, there were still challenges.
“So you have an insurance policy on your home for $100,000 because that’s what it was worth five or six years ago. But then because of new homes being built, now the value of your home has reached 200,000. And now the rebuilding cost is going to be 200,000,” he explained. “But you have insurance for $100,000 because that’s what the house was worth just four or five years ago. So now that your house has been damaged or demolished, you now have to find resources to make up the gap between what the insurance company will pay.”
He said that’s one reason monetary donations from people in Nashville and across the country were vital in the rebuilding process, as was the work of countless volunteers who gave their time. At the state level, they worked to get legislative support to freeze taxes for some homeowners and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency assisted as well.
“Let me give a huge shout out to our faith community that was resilient. But also I must give a shout out to our mayor, and the Tennessee Titans who came out in force on one day literally lifting these heavier items out of homes,” he said, adding Metro Councilman Brandon Taylor was also instrumental in North Nashville’s recovery. “I think it’s demonstrated a complete citywide effort to make sure that our police, our firefighters, NES kicked in and natural gas kicked in to make sure that persons would not have to worry about also those bills that were accruing as you’re trying to repair your home.”
He says one of the goals now is to talk with homeowners whose properties are still in disrepair to see what their plans are and what needs to happen to help them get that property fixed. There are also safety concerns for properties in disrepair because they don’t want teenagers or homeless people going into them and then getting hurt.
“But more than that, we also need to have a conversation about what do we want a community to look like?” he said.
Another goal was to have mental health support services for people who lost their homes.
“You’re talking about folks who may have been in a home for 40 years, and it was demolished. Yes, the building is replaced, yes, the walls and the roof have been replaced but those memories have been lost,” he said.
While there’s still more work to be done, he said the progress over the past two years shows the community’s strength during adversity.
“I think we have a reminder of our resilience. We were also reminded of how we came together. And we think about the neighbors that pitched in,” said Love. “I think particularly when we look at our other counties that are having to now recover from the floods, that is a reminder of the effect that weather can have on your community.”