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Faces of the Storm: Three weeks later, storm cleanup continues

Lisa Lazier's Magnolia Drive home still smells of pine. The March 1 tornado that blew through her Hickory Hill neighborhood in Thomson kicked off a March 2 flurry of activity on the property that has since shrunk to only her.

Three weeks have passed since the 125 mph winds felled trees that damaged her house and cars, and Ms. Lazier is still working hard on the cleanup effort.

Though the $56,000 of storm damage to her home was covered by insurance, readying the structure for repair while working a full-time job and taking care of her two sons is an ongoing struggle not accounted for in figures.

"Everybody's disappeared," Ms. Lazier said while taking a break from pulling up water-damaged flooring in her home. "I pulled the carpets out. I did that, and my ex-husband actually helped me lift them, but I pulled all the carpet up myself. I'm trying to stop damage. I'm trying to get everything that's wet."

Many in the path of the tornado that damaged property in Warren and McDuffie counties are in the midst of a recovery effort that will likely last for months to come, officials said.

The initial community-wide effort left people like Thomson Mayor Bob Knox pleased with the help for those affected by the storm. But that effort has changed since that first week of cleanup.

Now, much damaged property may not be salvageable. The City of Thomson is consulting with property owners to make those decisions and dispose of property that is not repairable.

"I think the key to it has actually been the support that the community, the non-profit organizations and everybody gave," Mayor Knox said. "They pitched in, to begin with, very, very strongly, and I think it just shows in the great amount of work that's been done."

There is one portion of work still going strong: removal of damaged trees. Tree and stump removal companies are hard at work along the streets of the Hickory Hill neighborhood.

A crew from Buddy's Tree Service removed damaged branches at a home on Camellia Drive last week. Buddy Tankersley, founder of the company, said his crews had been working non-stop removing trees since the storm. They even received some non-storm related business because of it.

"Several people got scared, you know, and had these old big pines in their yard and wanted them gone," Mr. Tankersley said.

But as the rebuilding continues, so does many storm victims' need for assistance. Several groups joined together to hold a tornado relief street party at the Board of Education office Saturday evening to raise funds and awareness.

Both federal and state emergency agencies have left town, but since work continues, Mayor Knox said those still in need of assistance should notify the appropriate local charity or government.

Meanwhile, FEMA officials announced Saturday that federal aid would be available to Warren County residents. For more information, call 1-800-621-3362 to speak with an application specialist. Aid is also still available to McDuffie County residents.

Web posted on Thursday, March 29, 2007

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