Bradley County's long-term storm recovery will be marathon, leaders agree

Bradley County's long-term storm recovery will be marathon, leaders agree

May 24th, 2011 by Randall Higgins in News

Anna Crumley, 13, sweeps at A-1 Closeouts, 2256 Spring Place Road, in Cleveland after tornadoes tore through the area. Staff Photo by Beth Burger/Chattanooga News Free Press

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Recovery from the April 27 storms will take years, community, church and civic groups were told Monday.

The work will be a marathon, not a sprint, several speakers said as the Bradley County Disaster Relief Committee began its organizational efforts. The committee will work under the Mayors' Coalition, a group formed long before the tornadoes, to bring people in need into direct contact with those who offer help quickly.

As the group met at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, Joplin, Mo.'s Sunday tornadoes were on many minds, too.

"It was amazing to turn on the television [Monday] morning and see what is happening in Joplin," Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said.

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland told local care providers that a year from now people still will need help.

Matt Carlson, director of the local Habitat for Humanity chapter and co-chairman of the Bradley County Housing Committee, said the area "had a lot of damage, but we can get back to a new normal."

But that new normal could be three to five years away, he said, noting that about 1,000 Bradley County homes were damaged or destroyed.

"Not just a few organizations but the whole community must come to the table, and it has," Carlson said.

"Outside of Cleveland, we are yesterday's news," he said, and after agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency leave, long-term recovery will be local people helping neighbors, he said.

Matt Ryerson, from United Way of Bradley County, heads the new Unmet Needs Committee, part of the long-term recovery group. The committee's job, he said, is to find those needs and then find resources to fill them. He said an example is that many tornado victims did not have usable mattresses. That need has been met, he said.

Gary Farlow, CEO and president of the area Chamber of Commerce, said training sessions from long-term recovery organizations will be available in June.

Those who can help, from work groups to fundraising, are invited to meet Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Chamber.

State Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, closed Monday's meeting with a prayer. But before the prayer, he said he had been overwhelmed by the volunteer spirit here.

"I wouldn't be at all shocked if some of the folks here show up in Joplin," he said.

Contact Randall Higgins at rhiggins@timesfreepress.com or 423-314-1029.