MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Crews have been working nonstop to restore power and bring some sense of normalcy to areas hard hit by Monday morning’s tornado.
It’s not yet known how many structures were damaged or how many people have been displaced by the storm. Fifty victims are finding a temporary shelter at a Memphis community center, and some are wondering if they’ll ever have a home to return to.
“My whole ceiling came down and just missed hitting my arm,” said Robert, a resident of the Cottonwood Apartments who did not want to give his last name.
Robert lived at the Cottonwood Apartments until Monday morning’s tornado hit.
Now, he’s staying at an emergency shelter opened by Red Cross and the City of Memphis. He’s anxious to at least get some of his possessions from the storm-ravaged complex.
“They’re saying I can’t go back and get my stuff out of my apartment, more clothing or anything else, which I’m going back anyway and see can I push my way in there,” Robert said.
Robert said he doesn’t have renter’s insurance, and neither does L.C. Buie, who also lived at Cottonwood and is handicapped.
“Well, it’s pretty stressful,” Buie said. “You know, a man in my position and my condition, it’s kind of very, very stressful.”
Both men are facing a problem many families are coping with now: what will it take to return to the home they once knew?
The emergency shelter, with meals provided by the Salvation Army, opened by the city is only a temporary fix.
“Our first response is to make sure people who’s homes have been impacted by these storms, that they have a safe place to come and stay, spend the night,” said Bob Wallace with Mid-South American Red Cross.
The shelter isn’t meant to be a permanent home, but it’s the first step in what will be a long recovery process to help victims get counseling and develop a plan for moving on.
With storm restoration just beginning, officials on every level are adding up the damages and considering what can be done for victims.
Mayor Jim Strickland is counting on the community rallying around victims and helping them through the disaster. He cautioned that the city can only do so much, and city funds are emergency oriented, not cash reimbursements.
“I don’t know if there’s any local funds for long term assistance, that’s all handle through the federal government,” Strickland said. “People would have to make their claims, and we can help them with that. They can certainly come to this community center, and we’ll help them do those applications.
The city could qualify for federal disaster relief based on the amount of damage.
Right now, a little less than 6,000 MLGW customers are without power.