Athens community rebuilds after November tornado

ATHENS (WATE) – Nearly three months have passed since a tornado touched down in McMinn County which hurt 20 people and destroyed dozens of buildings. The EF 2 tornado left behind a trail of damage in Athens and some homeowners are still working to clean up.

Homeowner Shelly Shields says nearly 40 trees on her property were damaged in the tornado.

“When we first came upstairs it looked like a war zone,” she said.

The Shields family had only been calling Tennessee home for four months after moving from Colorado.

Previous story: 20 injured in Athens tornado

“It was just beautiful when we moved here. That’s why we moved here is the trees,” added Shields.

For days now Shields and her husband Mike have been picking up branch by branch, piece by piece. Crews are working inside their home because part of their roof and a sun room were ripped off. Just like the Shields, 140 families have been coming to the Tornado Relief Center in Athens for help.

“Someone comes in and they have a certain need, that’s what we’re here to do. So, instead of people having to go 10 different places for assistance, they can just come here,” said Mary Brown, tornado relief coordinator.

Volunteers were boxing up donations Tuesday because the center is closing on Wednesday. Needs in the community are changing to long-term assistance.

“They call Athens the friendly city, but McMinn County, I can’t even describe the amount of people who’ve come in to volunteer, the amount of donations that we’ve had,” added Brown.

This community is patient and relying on faith as they rebuild.

“God keeps orchestrating every day and taking care of us,” said Shields.

Brown says at this point homeowners need help clearing their properties of debris. People who want to volunteer their time can reach out to Brown at (423) 506-1404. Financial donations to help tornado victims can also be made by reaching out to United Way of McMinn and Meigs counties by calling (423) 745-9606.

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