135 homes destroyed in Bradley County

135 homes destroyed in Bradley County

April 30th, 2011 by Beth Burger in News

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The Times Free Press has begun a local storm-relief effort, Neediest Cases: Southern Storms.

Donations from individuals and businesses can be sent directly to the newspaper and will be channeled to the American Red Cross. Donations also can be made online at http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/neediestcases/2011/.

Next week, the newspaper will begin publishing lists of Neediest Cases: Southern Storms donors along with a running tally of all donations made.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The Burgess house sat with the basement still intact, with sturdy stone walls. The exterior walls of the home were missing, opening up the 25-year-old home like a dollhouse where furniture still sat arranged in some of the rooms.

But most of the home's contents were strewn across fields after Wednesday's tornado that uprooted trees and crushed houses in its path throughout Bradley County.

It's a mystery where some things went.

The pen of rabbits was gone. Only one or two pieces of the green metal roofing that used to cover the home was now visible in the fields.

Wayne Burgess, 52, who built the home with his brothers years ago, stood near the debris. He was starting over, but he still had his family.

They were surrounded by death.

"That's why I say we're lucky. I don't consider it a loss when you have your family," said his wife, Susan Burgess, who began collecting items to salvage Friday. "You can recover from this."

The Glasgow house just below them was flattened. Tami Glasgow, a relative visiting from the Midwest. died holding 3-month old Chase Glasgow.

Another person died at 398 Blue Springs Road near the Burgess house. As of Friday, authorities still had not identified the body.

Burgess began the cleanup process by hauling scrap metal and unloading items from the basement to put into storage.

His is among many families in Bradley County recovering from the tornado's damage.

Bradley County fatalities and locations

• Kandice Setterfield, 512 Blue Springs Lane

• Evelyn Johnson, Leadmine Valley Road and Kelley

• Robert King, 78, Old Alabama Road

• Lisa Pack, area of Leadmine Valley Road

• Tami Glasgow, Hall Norwood Road and Blue Springs Road. A Michigan resident visiting family.

• Chase Glasgow, 3 months old, Hall Norwood and Blue Springs Road

• Rhonda Smith, 200 Gentry Lane

• Tommy Evans, Old Powerline Lane

• Unidentified body, possibly a woman, 398 Blue Springs Road

In Bradley County, 135 homes were destroyed, 185 had major damage and 300 had minor damage, according to Bradley County Emergency Management Agency.

Cleveland Utilities reported 3,905 customers were still out of service Friday with crews coming from Florida, Kentucky and other parts of Tennessee to help restore power.

Tom Wheeler, general manager, said it could be a week before all customers have their power restored.

The Volunteer Energy Cooperative also reported using outside crews to work on restoring power. As of Friday, VEC had 3,537 outages in Bradley County and 1,245 in Hamilton County.

Michele Hammonds, emergency services program manager for the Hiwassee Chapter of the American Red Cross, said most displaced people stayed with family members or friends, meaning the chapter would have to focus on bringing resources out to the storm victims.

The shelter remains open and had helped 27 people as of Friday.

The Burgess family stayed together, crowded in a nearby home that Wayne's son was remodeling.

The Burgess' grandson, 3-year-old Kolten Burgess, hung close to his grandparents. He struggled to make sense of his home.

"He got up this morning and said, 'Papaw, I want to go home.'" Wayne Burgess said. "I said, 'You are home.' He said, 'No, I want to go down there,'" pointing at the destroyed remains of the home.

Susan Burgess and her sister, Jaylene Taylor, walked through the fields searching for family photos. Some belonged to them, others to the Glasgows - = they set those aside for the grieving family.

"It's amazing how far it blows everything," she said. "The things you find."

Reluctantly, Kolten went through the fields clutching his Great-Aunt Jaylene's hand.

Susan Burgess hiked through the tall grasses, dodging boards with raised nails and downed barbed wire, wearing a pair of sandals - the shoes she had on when she went running to the basement for cover Wednesday night.

"The pictures are the things," she said ,after tearing up at a tattered photo where only her late mother's face remained. The photo originally contained several generations of family members including Burgess' daughter and granddaughter. "You know you can't go back and replace them."