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Deltaville’s Road to Recovery

Workers salvage one of several pews from the rubble of Zoar Baptist Church on Thursday, April 21, five days after a tornado caved in the sanctuary roof. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

If there is a silver lining in the dark cloud that was the April 16 Deltaville tornado, it’s the way people worked together to start recovering from this disaster.

“Seeing people come together to help their neighbors was an inspiration,” said Carlton Revere, the Middlesex County Emergency Services Director and a member of the county board of supervisors.

This was taken the night of and the day after the disaster. Video courtesy of the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office

The morning after the tornado, Revere could see the concern in the faces of the victims in Deltaville who were not sure how or what to do next. Some had lost their homes. For others, their church building was destroyed and their community center heavily damaged.

Some volunteered to help, said Revere. “That helped them feel like they were taking action in a situation that was overwhelming.”

State and local agencies, including fire, rescue and police, worked very well together, said Revere. “It was all about helping the victims.”

Volunteers from near and far answered the need for assistance, including Operation Blessing International, part of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Removing trees and debris was the job to be done, and the way people came forward “gave a renewed sense of community,” said Revere.

Those affected by the EF2 tornado knew they were not in this alone.

The tornado-related stories in this issue of the Sentinel are just a few of the markers on the road to recovery.

The Tornado of 2011
On April 16, a category EF2 tornado danced through Deltaville and in less than 5 minutes destroyed 32 homes and Zoar Baptist Church and caused major damage to 26 more residences.

The Warner and Remlik areas also had tornado damage, including two destroyed mobile homes and two seriously injured women.

The total building damage in Middlesex is estimated at $6.8 million.

In Deltaville, countless downed trees cluttered yards in a 3-mile long path of destruction that was said to look like “a war zone.”

The reaction to one of the worst disasters in county history began immediately after the 7:30 p.m. tornado spun out into the Chesapeake Bay. Companies with heavy equipment and VDOT cleared paths to the affected areas. Firefighters from the county’s four fire departments in Deltaville, Hartfield, Urbanna and Water View responded by going house-to-house checking on residents that same night.

Miraculously, no one was injured in Deltaville.

Operation Blessing
On Sunday afternoon, Operation Blessing International rolled into Deltaville with heavy equipment, a 20-ton crane, tools, a mobile kitchen and years of experience in dealing with disasters. They are totally self-sufficient.

“They knew what to do,” said Revere.

On the morning of Monday, April 18, Jody Gettys, director of Operation Blessing’s U.S. disaster team, asked Revere what he wanted her group of 10 to do. Revere asked for help with coordinating the volunteer effort. Gettys responded, “You got it.”

Operation Blessing (OB) started taking work requests from homeowners. It also collected the names of volunteers who wanted to help. By week’s end, 270 volunteers had signed up.
The elderly, disabled, uninsured and those living alone were the top priority, said Dan Moore, assistant director of OB’s U.S. disaster relief.

On Friday, April 22, the OB staff went door-to-door asking if there was anything else residents needed, said Chris Williams, project specialist with OB.

On Saturday, April 23, more than 125 volunteers turned out for the final cleanup.

A total of 35 properties had been cleared by volunteers when OB’s tractor trailer headed back to Virginia Beach. More than 1,125 meals had been served to workers, residents and volunteers.

posted 04.27.2011

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