Claiborne County Sheriff rebuilding home after tornado

Claiborne County Sheriff David Ray's home was destroyed by an EF-3 Tornado.
Claiborne County Sheriff David Ray's home was destroyed by an EF-3 Tornado.

SPEEDWELL (WATE) – The Speedwell community in Claiborne County is starting to look like it did before a tornado ripped through most of the town. Despite being denied federal assistance, many people in the area have started to rebuild their homes.

One of the most memorable images was what was left of Sheriff David Ray’s home. Nearly three months ago, 140 mile per hour winds ripped it apart and destroyed the homes of nine other families. No one was hurt.

Related coverage: Tornado, strong storms destroy homes in East Tennessee

There was nearly nothing left of Ray’s home, but now, things are starting to come together.

6 News spoke with Ray who can’t wait to move into his new home, but it’s at an all too familiar location.

“We went through a lot. We shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be here. My wife, my mother in-law shouldn’t be here by all rights to take 160 mile an hour winds and to struck the house and tear it down like they did,” he said.

The late July tornado destroyed his original house, which had been in his family for 30 years, took decades of memories with it.

Slideshow: WATE 6 On Your Side viewers share photos from the storm

“One minute. One minute separated this house and destroyed our home,” said Ray.

His insurance company called the home a total loss after the tornado and now he is building a stronger home, brick by brick. In mid-August he started rebuilding and the sheriff has made sure his new home has thicker walls and a better roof in case another storm rolls through again.

His entire house will be new except for the foundation and one big question remains: “When can he and his family move back in?

“I don’t know. My wife asks me that every day,” he said.

He hopes to have the house completed by Christmas.

Claiborne County’s Emergency Management Agency Director, David Breeding, told 6 News the town won’t be getting federal relief funds since the state couldn’t show at least $8.7 million in uninsured damage, but there is some good news.

Four families can apply for grant money through the Tennessee Housing Development Agency’s “Rebuild and Recover” program.

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