Hundreds of volunteers help with tornado aftermath in Bradley County


CLEVELAND, Tenn. (WATE) — The Bradley County community spent all of Tuesday chopping wood and picking up debris after an EF-1 tornado touched down late Sunday night.

The National Weather Service told WATE 6 On Your Side Tuesday that the damage in East Cleveland was caused by an EF-1 tornado, but storm surveyors were still working to find out if it was a new tornado that touched down, or if it was a continuation of the tornado in Chattanooga.

RELATED: Dozens of homes destroyed in Bradley County tornado

The majority of the damage seemed to have been downed trees. Several trees fell on top of homes and buildings, cars and power lines.

In working through the aftermath, the residents were not doing all the work by themselves. They had the help of at least 300 other people, according to Cross Net Baptist Church leaders.

The Cross Net Baptist Church coordinated the volunteer efforts.

Most of the volunteers were using chainsaws and tractors, whether their own or borrowed, to cut the trees down. They would then pile the roughly chopped wood and debris to the curb.

If volunteers weren’t helping clear debris, they were preparing and passing out food and water to the other volunteers and first responders, who were still blocking off entrance to the damaged areas.

Volunteers were also needed to help repair the chainsaws and sharpen the blades.

One volunteer said that if you have the time and the capability to head to Cleveland to help, then you should.

“They can use any and all help. It don’t matter if you can operate a chainsaw or if you can help pass out bagged lunches, any hands can help,” Harley Buchtel said.

The residents who needed the help were very grateful for it.

Becky and Sheena Brown had several trees, a few of them very large, fall down in their yard.

Fortunately, none of the trees fell on the house, but Becky Brown said it was a very expensive problem she couldn’t afford.

She said that a local tree-cutting service quoted her $4,500 for the job.

Brown said a local church group knocked on her door this morning asking if she needed help with the trees.

“There’s no way we could’ve paid to have all this work done and I’m just thankful and very blessed that our community is the way it is,” Brown said.

Many volunteers came from the Cleveland community.

The owners of The Little Diner on 1st closed early and headed out to the Michigan Avenue Baptist church, where Cross Net set up the volunteer check-in.

Arthur Zakolski said that the community has showed his family and restaurant support, so he wanted to return the favor, and brought the entire family.

They also brought two new chainsaws to help.

His daughter, Gianna Zakolski said they were glad to help.

“We’re young, but we have a lot of impact on this community and so I think that when we young people, like my siblings, I know I have seven, and we’re all teenagers, and so when we all like come together and work, we make a huge difference and people see that,” she said.

Cross Net leaders said they would need more volunteers in the coming days; a day or two after a tornado hits, most homeowners or renters need to wait for their insurance companies to see the damage before volunteers can help clean up.

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