Local volunteer returns from tornado-ravaged Oklahoma
A local man is back in the Tennessee Valley after nearly a month of helping tornado victims in Moore, Oklahoma.
On May 20th, the nation's eyes were focused on the EF-5 tornado that ravaged the town. It was one of the worst in US history, injuring hundreds and killing two dozen, including several children at an elementary school.
Locally, we know all too well the devastation that brings, so for the last month, the Tennessee Valley has had a helping hand in Oklahoma.
"You become family with these people that's affected and to see such devastation, it puts things in perspective of all the blessings you have back home," Red Cross Volunteer Michael Puryear said.
Less than 24 hours after the tornado ravaged Moore, Oklahoma, local Red Cross Volunteer Michael Puryear packed up the emergency response vehicle, and Channel 3 tagged along as he drove hundreds of miles to help.
"The reception of them was just overwhelming to know that somebody's come from a distant part of the country to help them," Puryear said.
"It is kind of hard to describe once you have been in one and you have seen the damage," tornado victim Douglas Armstrong said.
The first task was feeding tornado victims, but in the weeks since, added clean up.
"We provided cleanup kits, we had bulk trucks to go out into the communities that were affected, providing rakes, shovels, gloves, respirators," Puryear said.
He says while it's still in bad shape, bulldozers are now moving rubble out of the way for rebuilding to begin. He says he's proud of everyone from the Tennessee Valley who donated to the relief efforts.
"We utilize that to the fullest potential in terms of supplies, resources, just to help the community get back to where they need to be," Puryear said.
Now, back in Chattanooga after nearly of month of helping, he's already planning a trip back to Oklahoma in the fall.
"I like to reassure them that this isn't the last time I'll be here. I'll come back and see the restoration and hang out with those people," Puryear said.
Before he heads back to Oklahoma, he's visiting Joplin, Missouri to reconnect with the people he met during their deadly tornadoes in 2011, where he also responded.