MANCHESTER — A Red Cross volunteer from New Hampshire said the devastation caused by deadly tornadoes that swept across Tennessee was still visible nearly a week later.
“The areas that were hit are just basically flattened,” Bill Sitz of Sandwich said Monday from Nashville, where he arrived Saturday to assist in recovery efforts. “You can definitely see the line that the tornado came down and the path that it took. You can see homes that are just flattened. You see piles of rubble and trees overturned or split in half.”
Sitz, a disability integration supervisor responsible for making sure shelters are accessible and safe to all, said a Nashville shelter still had about 100 residents and about 10 people were still at another shelter set up in Cookeville, about 80 miles to the east in Putnam County.
According to the National Weather Service, the Putnam County tornado was classified as an EF4 with top winds of 175 mph, leading to 18 of the 24 fatalities from the tornadoes that struck early last Tuesday.
Sitz said the Nashville shelter is an athletic facility near Vanderbilt University already equipped with showers and bathrooms. He said Red Cross and other agencies were progressing from the initial response stage to recovery efforts, which include getting financial assistance to people who lost their homes.
Sitz said a few funerals took place over the weekend and more are scheduled for this week.
“The whole town is kind of in a state of compassion and sadness,” he said. “Everybody knows somebody who was affected.”
The coronavirus outbreak also factored in to recovery efforts, Sitz said. He said volunteers aren’t shaking hands and taking other precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s obviously something people talk about and take very seriously,” Sitz said. “It’s elbow bumping and things like that. We’re very rare of the coronavirus and doing all we can to keep everybody safe.”
Sitz was dispatched by the Red Cross in fall of 2019 for Hurricane Dorian and has also assisted with recoveries after wildfires in California and flooding in the Midwest.
“Every disaster is different,” Sitz said. “This was a very distinctive path. The damage is very concentrated in the path of tornadoes, whereas other disasters like flooding and hurricanes and things like that cover a much larger area.”