After the storm: A farming family still cleaning up - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

After the storm: A farming family still cleaning up

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BRADLEY COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- Farming has been a way of life for the Ownby family for decades. Unfortunately, their farm near Cleveland, Tennessee was right in the path of one of the many tornadoes which devastated the Tennessee Valley last April 27th.

"We saw it coming," recalls Kathy Ownby.

They mostly raised chickens and on that fateful day it didn't take much time for the twister to wipe away much of the family business.

"Thirty years. Thirty years of work left in about ten seconds," says Randall Ownby, Kathy's husband. Memories of the storm are still scattered about the property.

"We had vehicles that were either damaged or totaled. Farm equipment damaged or totaled," says Kathy. "Basically all fencing is gone."

Both poultry houses are total losses, and more than 40 thousand chicks delivered just hours before the tornado struck all perished. Despite some help from insurance, the Ownbys have shelled out thousands of dollars of their own.

"A lot of out of pocket expenses. More than people would ever know until they've actually been in this situation," says Randall. They've have had to work off the farm while continuing to clean up debris in their spare time.

"My son, I've been going with him. We've been doing some electrical work on the side," explains Randall.

And Kathy has been earning extra income working at a local retailer. The Ownbys say the emotional toll from the experience has improved at a better pace than the rest of their recovery--after all, they did survive the tornado. But they still say nothing will ever be the same.

"I don't know if you ever get over something like this," says Randall. "I mean that's just plain and simple."

"Everybody goes "Are you back to normal?" It will never be normal," adds Kathy.

They say it will simply take time to reach a "new normal" and as for farming, they're not ready to fly the coop just yet.

"We'll continue farming. We'll just diversify and carry on," explains Kathy.

The family received help from local organizations early in the recovery process, but like many other families the rest of the clean up has been left mostly up to them. It's been a daunting task with so many pieces to pick up. The Ownbys say the disaster resulted in neighbors getting to know each other better.

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