Community Effort: Many locals roll up their sleeves to help clean up tornado site

Published 9:30 am Saturday, April 1, 2023

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As West Point homeowners reel from damage caused by the tornado that crossed southern Troup County on Sunday morning, community members are gathering in West Point to assist with recovery efforts.

Sheriff James Woodruff said he encouraged employees to come down to help with the cleanup on Friday after seeing all of the damage.

“Just seeing the devastation and destruction out here made us want to help,” Woodruff said. “We knew we couldn’t do a lot but just to come down here and help out a few neighbors, a few friends and just make a small difference.”

Several TCSO employees joined Woodruff in the cleanup, including Lt. Mark Lott, Major Keith Flory, Sgt. Stewart Smith and Lori Brewer.

“I’m just proud of the people. When I went to my people and asked for volunteers, they readily volunteered to come down here,” Woodruff said.

“If everybody will come and make a small difference, we can get this site cleaned up,” Woodruff said. “It’s going to take a while. It’s very overwhelming, but we can do it.”

The crew from TSCO helped move debris from the storm to the right-of-way and dumpsters donated by Randall Cotton. Woodruff said Cotton provided six roll-off dumpsters. The county plans to add additional dumpsters to assist with the cleanup.

Crews from the City of LaGrange also responded to assist in the cleanup with brush removal trucks.

LaGrange Trash and Refuse Manager Scott Allen said the city has crews helping down in West Point pulling debris from the right-of-ways using their brush removal equipment.

“Our mayor Willie Edmondson and [West Point City Manager] Ed Moon down here and Mayor Steve Tramell down here got together and asked for some help, and we decided it was a good idea to come down and help,” Allen said.

Allen said the LaGrange crews will be in West Point throughout the weekend until they have to come back to LaGrange. He said he is uncertain of later dates.

Troup County Solicitor Sandra Taylor also volunteered with the cleanup on Friday, helping move debris and cutting fallen trees.

“I just know how bad the damage is to these people that live in this particular area of the county, and I’m there for that and all of Troup County,” Taylor said. “We wanted to be here and help how we could.”

“In Rotary on Wednesday, the mayors were there, and we were able to contact, share and coordinate the efforts between the cities and getting this debris removed,” Taylor said. “It’s exciting to me to see civic clubs, cities, county officials, pulling together to address the issue that this part of the community didn’t ask for and got.”

Several volunteer groups also came to West Point to help with the cleanup efforts, including the North Georgia United Methodist Disaster Response Team.

“We’re here with a group that has a mixture of a bunch of churches,” said team member Melinda Nussey.

“We’ve been here since Wednesday,” Nussey said, noting they plan to leave on Saturday. “I hate to leave because you never felt like the job’s done, but we got them started.”

Team leader Mark Brown said the group has been to 27 disaster recovery sites. The group didn’t come to Troup for the Jan. 12 tornadoes but did help out in Griffin for the same storm front.

He said the category EF-3 tornado there caused similar damage.

“Natural disasters can be total disasters for those involved no matter how big they are,” Brown said.