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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Morning Pointe Senior Living President Greg A. Vital talks outside The Lantern at Morning Pointe Alzheimer's Center of Excellence Chattanooga on Friday. The facility off of Shallowford Road was hit by the violent storms that tore through Chattanooga.

Morning Pointe Senior Living is temporarily shutting its two Shallowford Road facilities, at least from four to eight months, citing multimillion-dollar damage caused by the East Brainerd tornado.

The company is making plans to relocate its 130 former residents, who were initially moved into a pair of hotels, to other Morning Pointe sites in the Chattanooga area or competitor facilities or into the care of their families, said Greg Vital, the company's president.

"This is a human life crisis," said Vital, noting the tornado hit while the senior sites were fighting against exposure to the COVID-19 outbreak.

We're very fortunate there was no loss of life. The staff pulled off an amazing evacuation.

No deaths or serious injuries were sustained, he said.

"We're very fortunate there was no loss of life," Vital said. "The staff pulled off an amazing evacuation."

About half of the 130 residents were located at The Lantern at Morning Pointe Alzheimer's Center of Excellence Chattanooga at 7620 Shallowford Road. It sits amid the array of East Brainerd homes and businesses that were damaged by the storm.

The Alzheimer's facility sustained more damage than Morning Pointe of Chattanooga at Shallowford, an assisted living center that is located nearly across the street.

At the Alzheimer's center, windows were blown out, parts of the exterior were sheared off and there was heavy roof damage. The building's exterior is peppered with dirt and insulation.

The second structure sustained heavy roof and rain damage. Vital said all the carpet on the floors and the wallboard would need replacing to make it habitable again.

John Germann, whose wife Carol was a resident of The Lantern, said Saturday that she already has been moved to the Morning Pointe facility in East Hamilton.

He said that while his wife is fine, it has been stressful for everyone, particularly since he was without power at his residence for four days due to the tornado and that it has been about a month since he has seen Carol due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.

Germann cited the midnight evacuation of residents from the damaged building by the staff "without much consternation on the part of the residents."

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Morning Pointe COO Franklin Farrow, left, Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Hodgen Mainda, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Morning Pointe Senior Living President Greg A. Vital look at tornado damage to The Lantern at Morning Pointe Alzheimer's Center of Excellence Chattanooga.

He added that a storage company, Good Guys Moving, had soon after packed up all his wife's goods and furniture and taken those to a secure location.

"She hopefully will have a room she would recognize," Germann said, adding that he would like to see some of the staffers at the Shallowford Road facility relocate to the East Brainerd site for the same reason.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, who toured the two sites on Friday afternoon with Tennessee Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Hodgen Mainda, said the damage to the senior facilities is part of the devastation in the area.

"But we're looking at a vulnerable population," Coppinger added. "A lot of credit goes to the staff. They got the people out of harm's way."

Mainda said he was representing Gov. Bill Lee as he viewed the tornado damage and pledged to help work to see claims filed and paid. He said he has talked to insurance carriers about the damage to the stricken property owners, business people and residents in the area.

Morning Pointe employee Audra Hopkins said the staff remained calm after the tornado as residents were summoned to the lobby areas.

"Residents wanted to see a familiar face," she said.

Taylor Preston of TIS Insurance Services, who also toured the sites, termed the situation "a catastrophe within a catastrophe."

He, too, noted the response of the Morning Pointe staff, adding that "maybe God was on our side a little bit."

Vital said Morning Pointe is conducting "a major balancing act" as it continues to protect the former residents from COVID-19 and provide the health care they need.

"They've been dislocated and put in an unfamiliar environment," he said.

Franklin Farrow, Morning Pointe's COO, said families of the residents are "very understanding. There has been an outpouring of sympathy. We've become their families."

He said all of the residents and staff have tested free of COVID-19 to this point. In fact, no one at Morning Pointe's facilities in Tennessee has tested positive, Farrow said.

Vital said Morning Point will rebuild the damaged pair of facilities.

"We're Morning Pointe strong," he said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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