Volunteers and crews help restore life to normal in Cumberland County

CROSSVILLE (WATE) – Tennessee remains at a level two state of emergency, but the number of people without power is now under 10,000 people across the state. That includes those waiting for electricity to be restored in Cumberland and Fentress counties.

As of Friday evening. Volunteer Electric Cooperative reports 3,500 outages in Cumberland County and 220 in Fentress County.

Volunteers are now helping with disaster clean up.

Team Rubicon has been in Crossville since Wednesday. More than 30 volunteers are staying there here for the next 10 days.

Volunteers travel from all over to disaster zones across the country. They get out in the worst hit areas to assess damage and help with debris removal. This is their second operation this year, and a difficult one to tackle

“It’s just widespread damage. You know a tornado, you come in and you see a path that the tornado went down and you focus on one little strip of area. With a winter storm, it’s widespread and so you’re all over the place,” said Jim Laman with Team Rubcon.

Team Rubicon has been in Crossville since Wednesday. More than 30 volunteers are staying there here for the next 10 days.
Team Rubicon has been in Crossville since Wednesday. More than 30 volunteers are staying there here for the next 10 days.

Their slogan is “bridge the gap.” They try to bridge the gap between when the disaster initially happens and when other, long term relief efforts show up.

They also bridge the gap veterans face when they transition from combat to civilian life.

“To give them something to kind of strive for and to look for and to kind of help them get back if they’re struggling with coming back from a deployment or being overseas or being in a combat zone,” said Laman.

Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm veteran Shannon Derouen has been with Team Rubicon for three years and says helping with disaster relief in places like Cumberland County puts him back on a team and helps him integrate back into society.

“In the military we’re trained to be quick responders. We’re trained to be in chaotic disaster situations, to make quick decisions and it’s the same as this kind of response,” said Derouen.

Team Rubcon crews spent Friday out in Cumberland county, assessing the damage and sending all of that information back to the command post. This is what’s going to determine where they’ll focus the next 10 days.

Bread of Life works to feed people affected by Crossville winter storm

Volunteers at the Bread of Live in Crossville feed the people who come to the rescue mission each night for dinner, but thanks to the storm, they’re preparing many more meals than normal.

Connie Reagan says since the storm hit, volunteers have been feeding more than 100 people a day. That’s more than double their normal crowd.

Her husband Ralph Reagan says their priority is making sure no one goes to bed hungry.

“We give everyone that comes in, we fill them a box of food. Plus we give them the meats vegetables, breads and potatoes,” he said.

Volunteers at the Bread of Live in Crossville feed the people who come to the rescue mission each night for dinner, but thanks to the storm, they're preparing many more meals than normal.
Volunteers at the Bread of Live in Crossville feed the people who come to the rescue mission each night for dinner, but thanks to the storm, they’re preparing many more meals than normal.

The Reagans say since this winter storm has brought in more elderly people without power, they’ve been able to provide more than just heat.

“To see the people come in who have lost power and are cold, to be able to give them a hot meal, a warm shower, just to sit and talk to them and let them know we’re going to get through this,” said Connie Reagan.

Rescue mission volunteers have been working around the clock to help feed the surplus of people affected by the Cumberland County storm. The Reagans say every second has been worth it.

“You know if we just reach one person and we take that sadness and turn it into a smile, then it’s worth it. I’d do it all over again. I hope we don’t have to! But I would,” she said.

Connie Reagan
Connie Reagan

The Reagans say they’ve had a lot help from the community. The prison brought them firewood to give to people who still don’t have power and people continuously drop by food to help keep their shelves stocked.

Crews work to get Cumberland County students back in school Monday

School parking lots in Cumberland County were empty Friday for the 10th school day in a row thanks to the snow and ice. Even though road crews have been out trying to make driving conditions better so that students can come back on Monday, three schools including Stone Elementary still don’t have electricity. That could hinder students finally being back in the classroom.

Three schools in Cumberland County still don't have electricity.
Three schools in Cumberland County still don’t have electricity.

“We have two of the schools, South and Stone Elementary, that are without power completely, and we have one school that is without power to the sewage pumps,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Rebecca Wood.

That’s bad news since students have been out of the classroom for two weeks, made worse because the total number of snow days Cumberland County has used this year is up to 15.

Even if school does resume on Monday, the district is already over the allotted number of days for the entire year.

“We are requesting a waiver with the Commissioner of Education to waive that 180 day instructional requirement, so we’ll wait to hear back from her. Right now, our plan is to look at those staff development days. We still have two left that we could convert to instructional days,” said Dr. Wood.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Rebecca Wood
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Rebecca Wood

In the meantime, thousands are still without power in Cumberland County, but schools could be knocked off that list just in time if school resumes on Monday.

“Volunteer Electric feels confident that we’ll have power to all of the schools by this weekend, so we can assess if there’s anything we need to do to hopefully get kids back as soon as possible,” said Dr. Wood.

The district will check bus routes Saturday to see if they will be safe enough to drive on Monday morning.

Even though VEC thinks electricity could be back on in time for kids to come back to school on Monday, there are still concerns about heat and even the Internet, because students are in the middle of assessments.

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