Residents rebuilding one year after deadly tornado - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Residents rebuilding one year after deadly tornado

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POLK COUNTY, TN -

One year later, and you can still see a community picking up the pieces from a deadly tornado that swept through West Polk County. Many communities in the area are still rebuilding.

Last year, Channel 3 took the photo below. On the left you can see a trailer was flipped onto its top and debris scattered across the yard. On the right, you can see what it looks like today, the homeowner has made some progress, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Though a full calendar year has passed, many residents like Douglas Leslie still remember the moments before the violent storm moved in.

"You got six minutes, well I hollered into the bedroom and said honey you need to get up and make sure you got good clothes on because we might have to leave this house any minute,” Leslie recalled.

Leslie and his wife have lived in their home for more than 20 years. The high winds shattered his windows and tore down his garage, but it was his wheelchair ramp that was destroyed that made his home inaccessible.

"I've never heard one before. I've never been in anything like this or seen any devastation like this, it was just like wow,” he said.

The damage was widespread in West Polk County, walk down Highway 411, the area that took a direct hit during last year's tornado and you can still see scrap metal still high up in the trees.

Officials estimate the tornado caused at least $1,000,000 in damages to the community. About 40 to 50 structures were heavily damaged or destroyed along a 2.5-mile stretch along Highway 411. Over the last year, the community has worked around the clock to clean things up.

The Walker Valley High School baseball team, churches and other volunteers worked to restore Leslie’s wheelchair ramp and clean up yards and streets covered with debris.

Leslie lives just a few houses away from where a couple was killed during last year's storm, he says he won't ever forget that night.

"When it was gone, we tried to come out the door here, but we couldn't get out the door. The first thing we heard was a lady screaming, oh my goodness, it was just awful. It bothered my wife for two weeks,” he said.

The West Polk Fire Department and the Ocoee Post Officer were demolished in the storm as well. Work is being done to rebuild and reopen soon.

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