published Friday, May 6th, 2011

Walker County picks up pieces after the storms


by Andy Johns
John Chaney, right, stows equipment as co-workers Kevin Steers, bottom left, and Dale Thompson, descend a pole while working to restore power on the 300 block of S. Mission Ridge Drive in Rossville on Thursday. Steers and Thompson are two of 10 employees who traveled from their home in Baltimore, Md., to help restore power to North Georgia residents. 
Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press
John Chaney, right, stows equipment as co-workers Kevin Steers, bottom left, and Dale Thompson, descend a pole while working to restore power on the 300 block of S. Mission Ridge Drive in Rossville on Thursday. Steers and Thompson are two of 10 employees who traveled from their home in Baltimore, Md., to help restore power to North Georgia residents. Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

CHATTANOOGA VALLEY, Ga.—Contractor Donny Parrish has looked at about 70 storm-damaged houses in the tri-state region and, though the devastation in Walker County hasn’t grabbed headlines like in other areas, he said it’s about on par with anything around.

“It’s bad,” said Parrish, evaluating a house in the Eagle Landing subdivision off Highway 193. “Not as bad as Ringgold, but it’s bad.”

Chattanooga Valley, Hinkle, Rossville, Flintstone and other areas in northern Walker County took a major hit from the storm that slammed into Trenton on April 27.

County Coordinator David Ashburn said 1,500 to 2,000 homes in Walker County were damaged, with 40 to 60 of them destroyed. About 150 have what Ashburn considers “major damage.”

No one died in Walker County storms, but a Chickamauga resident was killed at a relative’s house in Higdon, Ala. Ashburn said 25 Walker residents were taken to hospitals after the storm, and five were kept overnight. Between 80 and 100 victims were treated on the scene, he said.

“You don’t hear much about Walker County on the news, but we’ve probably got more dollar damage than Dade County,” Ashburn said.

He could not give an exact figure for that damage. No estimate of damage has been released for Dade County, either.

Meanwhile, the cleanup has begun.

Electrical workers, roofers and tree crews swarmed around Flintstone and Chattanooga Valley on Thursday afternoon. Neighbors removed debris from their yards and discussed damage with insurance adjusters.

“It looks so much better even now,” said Eagle Landing resident Jimmy Saunier, who returned home Wednesday when power was restored.

Saunier’s home escaped most of the damage, but a two-by-four burst through a window on the front of his house, leaving a dent in a door on the opposite side of the room.

“It was just a straight shot right through,” he said.

Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said she was shocked at all the mangled buildings, especially around Hinkle on Lookout Mountain.

“Some of them are just lying there in splinters,” she said.

One house in Eagle Landing was shifted several feet off its foundation, collapsing onto a truck in a garage.

Twenty steps away, Russell Mask was shocked to find his raspberry bushes in perfect shape. The storm blew out several of his home’s windows, coating the rooms inside with leaves, glass and other debris.

Volunteers and county workers are helping the neighborhood recover, Mask said.

“We have no complaints,” he said. “This is county government at work.”

Ashburn said crews have passed out 1,300 tarps and hauled off loads of downed trees and debris. On Wednesday night, they handed out heaters to residents in higher elevations where the temperature dropped into the 30s. Much of the cost to the county will be reimbursed by federal disaster money, he said.

“Even though we’re working 16- to 18-hour days, it recharges your battery because it reminds you why you’re here,” Ashburn said.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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