UPDATE: Daughter of two killed in Polk Co. tornado shares her story
The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-3 tornado moved through the Ocoee area Wednesday, claiming two lives.
UPDATE: Nearly a week has gone by since tornadoes hit at least five counties in the Tennessee Valley. The most powerful one slammed Polk County with winds up to 165 miles per hour. The EF-3 tornado killed firefighter Mark Faulk and his wife Saundra who were inside their mobile home.
Saundra's daughter, Kira Chadwick tells Channel 3 it wasn't until she got a call from her older brother, an EMT who was working in Florida, late Tuesday night, when her world was turned completely upside down.
"It was about 3 o'clock in the morning and he told me I needed to get over here as quickly as I could and so I woke up my dad and we headed this way," said Chadwick. "He just told me a tornado hit and no one was answering their phones. I was was the only that answered."
Chadwick and her father rushed to check on her grandma, mom and stepdad, who lived at the 100 block of Cross Way in Ocoee, right after the tornado moved on.
"We went at the end of the road and I don't even think rescue was here yet, and we just kind of piled through everything and we hitched it, jumped through all the trees and you know all the brush and everything," Chadwick said. "Everybody was okay except my mom and my stepdad."
The couple stayed in a trailer directly behind Kira's older brother and next to her grandmother. When the tornado hit, they were killed on impact.
"Honestly it just still don't feel real so I guess it hasn't hit me yet i'm not sure, but I'm just taking it day by day," said Chadwick.
Just a week before the disaster, Chadwick gave birth to her son Felix, who's still recovering at TC Thompson's Children's Hospital in Chattanooga, after being transported due to complications.
"He got caught in the birth canal and lost oxygen for about four to five minutes and it caused a bunch of issues, but here we are about a week later and he's stronger than before," said Chadwick.
Felix was transported immediately after delivery, leaving no time to officially meet his grandmother, Saundra. However, Chadwick said her mother did get a glimpse of her grandson before doctors took him away to be treated.
"She went back with my stepmom to see him before he had been moved, and I didn't really get to see; I never really got to see her reaction, but my stepmom says she was pretty excited about it all so that makes me happy."
Traces of the deadly tornado still remain, along with a heartbreaking reminder of the lives lost. A reminder Chadwick said she's learned a valuable lesson from.
"Family comes before anything. I would do anything for my family and everybody takes that for granted sometimes, and I feel like I may have been taking that for granted for a little while, and it just kind of just put me back on the path I need to be on," Chadwick said. "I'd never wish this on anybody you know what I mean, but I guess you know if someone else being in this situation, I would hope that they learn as much as I did and they learn as much as the family has, and kinda just not fall you know; keep flying, and build yourself back up."
The family is not sure if a formal funeral will be held, but they are making plans to keep everything private.
Chadwick said baby Felix is making progress every day. If you'd like to help, the family has a GoFundMe page set up to help with Felix's recovery.
PREVIOUS STORY: A violent tornado wreaked havoc in Polk County. 24 hours later residents are still feeling the aftermath of the storm.
The National Weather Service a category EF-3 tornado pummeled through the town killing two people.
Firefighter Mark Faulk and his wife died in the storm. The Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department in Georgia where he once worked paid tribute to the couple.
50 others structures were torn apart including Edd and Teresa Allen’s home.
“As far as Paul Barys, like I said his accuracy, if it hadn't been for that we might not have been here. we might have been asleep in bed,” Edd said.
Wind speeds reached 140 miles per hour tearing belongings out of homes and into the streets.
Many things are destroyed but amid the debris, an American flag saved by a postal carrier.
"Through history and all the devastation, the flag for some reason just survives and that's America the flag will always survive,” Mark Lawrence with the USPS said.
A symbol of hope for a community that lost so much.
“All that stuff is replaceable, but the good Lord spared my wife and me and my boys. We're thankful to be here,” the Allen’s said.
The West Polk Volunteer Fire and Rescue are collecting donations for families affected by the storm. They are asking for:
- New clothing
- Non-personable food
- Cleaning supplies
PREVIOUS STORY: At dawn Thursday, many people in Polk County got their first chance to see the extent of the storm damage from Wednesday's EF-3 tornado and the resulting winds.
Uprooted trees, downed power lines and destroyed homes could be found near Stump Street.
The tornado's winds reached nearly 140 mph according to National Weather Service teams that inspected the damage to make the decision on the cause of the damage.
PREVIOUS STORY: Mickey Sellers thought it was going to be a typical night along highway 411.
"The trains rattle the house at night when they come by. A lot of times they park behind the house and shake the house for an hour before they leave. I guess I slept through most of it," says Sellers.
But in the wee hours of Wednesday morning it was an EF-3 tornado that passed through his neighborhood instead of the train. Sellers was eventually awakened by flying debris hitting his house.
"It didn't hit me, really, what happened until daylight. I just went up there checking on people," adds Sellers.
He has lived here with his wife, Tracy, for four years. They're unharmed, but a bit shaken up.
"We're just missing just shingles, maybe a piece of siding here and there," says Sellers. "I think we're really lucky. Everything can be replaced. Life is important. We got that."
The damage is mostly in the town of Ocoee, spread over a fairly small area. The post office was destroyed, as well as a few other buildings and homes. Many others were damaged, including the fire hall.
About 2,700 people in the Ocoee-Benton service area have lost power, according to Marable-Pirkle Services.
"If there's not a tree on it then there's a car through it. There's buildings on it, tin roofs up in it, limbs on it," says line foreman Joshua Hollis.
The Cleveland, Tennessee-based company has been here since sunrise Wednesday clearing power lines and trying to restore electricity. It's a challenging job. Trees were easily toppled by strong winds and heavy rain after months of drought.
"The lack of rain we've had the past few months, then all of a sudden you get an inch of rain. Now we're expecting a cold front to come through the next couple days. That's going to make it tough," adds Hollis.
He says there's probably a couple more days of work ahead of them. It's an unusual situation for so late in the year, but they'll get the job done.
"More work for us, but at the same time it's more devastation for people who can't afford the devastation," says Hollis.
George Mathews of The National Weather Service Morristown, Tennessee office estimates the winds were 140 mph. The width and length of the path still have to be determined. He also says that, based on the pattern of the damage, there were likely smaller "swirls" inside the main tornado, leading to a higher level of damage.
PREVIOUS STORY: Heavy rain continued to fall hours after a storm ripped through Polk County destroying homes and businesses.
The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-3 tornado moved through the Ocoee area overnight. The sheriff’s office confirmed Tuesday that two people were killed and several others were injured.
Survey team announced in Polk County a low end EF-3 tornado w/ max winds estimated at 140 mph.— NWS Morristown (@NWSMorristown) November 30, 2016
Residents like Ginger Wilcox took cover, barely escaping their homes before it was too late.
"I just started hollering tornado, tornado everyone get up and I just think God he woke me up in time if my son had still been laying there he would've been dead,” Wilcox said.
The Wilcox family all made it out alive, their home wasn't so lucky.
"The tree came through his bedroom, through the ceiling, my windows were shattered, the place is not livable.” Wilcox said.
Now they're staying in a Red Cross shelter at Polk County High School.
"We set up a shelter to help aid people of damaged or destroyed homes from the storms that came through," Tammy Salmond with the Red Cross said.
It's a way they hope to provide relief during this difficult time.
"You don't find too many people that are willing to help and I appreciate it,” Wilcox said.
The storm swept through wiping out the fire station and the post office.
Some say the hardest sight is the broken structures and scattered debris where homes once stood.
“The only thing I could think to do is start praying because no matter what happens God is still in control of it.” Wilcox said.
The aftermath from the storm is far from over, the Red Cross says the shelter will remain open as long as there's a need.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.