Ringgold Business Owner: "Each day it gets better"
RINGGOLD, CATOOSA COUNTY, GA. (WRCB)-- Nearly two months after an outbreak of tornadoes ravaged the Tennessee Valley, signs of progress are starting to appear.
An EF-4 tornado tore through the Ringgold area April 27th. Dozens of businesses were destroyed, and reopening their doors has been a long process.
Important documents, like licenses and permits, were lost during the storms. For some, getting those back can take some time. Still, if you take a drive down Alabama Highway, it's clear business owners aren't giving up. Many are dedicated to making a come back. Signs of progress are beginning to show, especially in restaurants.
Walls are up on a redesigned Taco Bell and four other eateries aren't far behind. The Catoosa County building inspector says new blue prints come through his door everyday.
"It's amazing," says Walter Jackson Chevrolet General Manager, Ryan Jackson. "Each day it gets better, you see a lot more traffic on Alabama Highway."
For weeks Walter Jackson Chevrolet was one of the only Alabama Highway businesses still open.
"We've been having to go to the next town to get food," says Jackson. "That's about to change with Wendy's reopening; Taco Bell will probably open soon."
Finally, eight weeks later, signs of life along the desolate strip are palpable again.
"We're working on the inside," says Taco Bell contractor, Justin Burke. "It will look like the new buildings we're building."
The redesigned restaurant should reopen July 4th. Progress at McDonald's and Waffle House are less visible, but Catoosa County Chief Building Official Rick Quarles says permits have been approved.
"McDonald's and Waffle House will have scrap and rebuild," says Quarles. "They were significantly damaged."
So far, the county inspector has signed off on plans for a total of five Alabama Highway restaurants, including Domino's and Pizza Hut. Other businesses like Kangaroo, Krystal, Hardee's, Subway, Food Lion and Ace Hardware aren't as far along.
"Once they decide what they're doing they bring me the plans," says Quarles. "I review them, they have to make current code requirements."
The good news is when it comes to curb appeal, Quarles says most businesses are stepping it up on their own.
"Some of them are looking at new concepts and designs," says Quarles.
For Ringgold residents the construction is a step in the right direction, and a sign that their city is coming back together.
"It's very uplifting," says Jackson. "Just to see the smiles returning to people's faces."
The building inspector says many structures along Alabama Highway will have to be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up. Several hotels also suffered significant damage, but so far no reconstruction plans have been presented to the county.