Glade Spring Still Waiting

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An EF3 tornado bore down on Glade Spring at full force about 12:45 a.m. on April 28th. This home, visible from I-81 at about 8:30 the next morning, is located on Stage Coach Road, an area which sustained heavy damage.

An EF3 tornado bore down on Glade Spring at full force about 12:45 a.m. on April 28th. This home, visible from I-81 at about 8:30 the next morning, is located on Stage Coach Road, an area which sustained heavy damage.

by Cheryl Hodges

“They said what . . .?  That’s how many Glade Spring residents are reacting as they receive the news that their area has not qualified for federal assistance following the tornado that ravaged the area last month.

The April tornadoes that traversed a wide swath beginning with the country’s midsection, swinging primarily east to northeast, left severe devastation in their wake—and some of the hardest hit are not currently on the list to receive disaster relief from FEMA.

The most recent storms on April 28 made national news as severe thunder storms spawned tornadoes that popped up from Mississippi to Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and beyond, with hundreds of deaths reported. The tornado that ripped through the Glade Spring area (about halfway between Marion and Abingdon) ran directly across I-81, giving motorists passing by after the fact a clear view of the damage these storms can inflict. While Tennessee and other areas have qualified for disaster relief, Virginia has so far been left off the list.

Even a cursory look at the Glade Spring area makes that reality seem strange. Trees have been snapped in half and many structures are partially or completely demolished.  Just a sampling of the aftermath: a church was lifted off its foundation; the Petro Truck Stop and probably 15 businesses sustained heavy damage; scores of trees lay uprooted across area roadways; several tractor trailers travelling along I-81 were slammed into embankments, and unfortunately there were three confirmed deaths in the area.

Congressman Morgan Griffith agrees with the consensus that anyone who has seen the devastation cannot believe federal help is not currently available. “It just does not make sense to people; it is hard to accept … and understand why it hasn’t been forthcoming.” The urgency of his mission comes across as he conveys the assurance that, “we are working in a bipartisan way right now to figure out how to solve this problem.”  Griffith has visited the area repeatedly since the disaster and is determined to rectify the situation.

Steve Bowman, an Abingdon resident whose mother-in-law Stella Tilley lives in Glade Spring, received a call from her at 1:00 a.m. on the 28th with the news that “changed their lives forever.”

He describes a frightening scenario; “Most residents in its path had gone to bed, unaware of the destruction that awaited them. Many had seconds to take cover in basements, in a closet, or bathroom. Three residents didn’t make it out alive. By the Grace of God more people didn’t get killed or injured.”

When Bowman arrived in Glade Spring in the morning he found,  “trucks turned over like toy cars, buildings gone, roofs ripped off, a front porch missing, telephone poles snapped like a match stick, electric power lines down everywhere, interstate sign poles bent.”

He adds, “I’ve been up there just about every day since and I still can’t comprehend what I am seeing. I pray I never see anything this bad in my life again.”

Griffith recounts the story of a very fortunate 11-year-old girl who was literally picked up by the storm and dropped back down moments later unharmed.  He sounds shaken as he relays that if the Gates Corporation plant nearby had not had a large “steel I-beam around the center of the building, it would have collapsed. There were 70 workers inside.”

Congressman Griffith says that the “formula the government uses” to determine eligibility for disaster relief just didn’t go Virginia’s way.  He is urging an appeal of this decision. He also urges anyone in the affected areas to report their uninsured or perhaps underinsured status to the government. Every claim helps show the actual extent of the devastation and increases chances of FEMA approval of funds for rebuilding.

According to Bowman, Griffith does “get it.” Bowman said he heard there were people protesting the FEMA denial outside Griffith’s Abingdon office.  Griffith’s response?  He joined in their protest.

Griffith also relayed  the story of a family who heard the storm coming and scooped their kids up out of the bed they were sleeping in and got in the bathroom.  Moments later a car that was picked up by the funnel slammed into that same bed.”

This was a devastating storm. Everyone in this area of Virginia certainly understands that. They are now all anxiously waiting to see if the government will also “get it.”

Website to report damages: http://www.washcova.com/government/washington-county-news/236-disaster-resources  or call Morgan Griffith’s office at (202) 225-3861

Visit Facebook page entitled “Email our officials to protest FEMA denying Glade Spring” for ongoing updates.