COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - It’s been exactly one week since a series of devastating tornadoes tore through the Chattahoochee Valley and while clean up and recovery efforts are still going strong in both Alabama and Georgia, many are taking the chance to reflect on the tragic week and how our community came through it.
From those whose houses were directly hit, to the first responders working around the clock to good Samaritans joining in the recovery- almost everyone can agree: So much has happened in the last 7 days.
Last Sunday afternoon, multiple tornadoes ripped through East Alabama and parts of Georgia.
The National Weather Service in Birmingham says the first tornado that impacted Lee County Sunday afternoon was an EF-4 and at least half a mile wide. There were 2 other possible EF-3 tornadoes in the area as well.
Tornadoes also ravaged communities like Eufala, Ellerslie, Pine Mountain, and Talbatton.
As dawn broke on Monday morning, first responders and medical professionals immediately went into action attempting to find and rescue those in the hard hit areas.
As Tuesday passed residents emerged to see the damage across the valley and all of it’s implications. From fallen trees and power lines to closed roads and power outages, even homes and businesses completely ripped apart by the severe storms.
Beyond the structural damage, there was emotional pain: A total of 23 people, ranging in age from 6 to 89, lost their lives in the tornado that hit Lee County.
By Wednesday, local and state leaders were stepping up to help their citizens in need.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp both declared states of emergencies in the wake the tragic days before. They began to formulate plans of how to provide state funding to the areas struck by the storms.
Even President Donald Trump came down to assess the damage and address victims’ families on Friday.
By Thursday, donation and volunteers centers had popped up all over the community.
Volunteer organizations like the Red Cross, FEMA, and Samaritan’s purse rushed to help victims’ families and survivors. They provided shelters, supplies, food, medical care, and grief counseling.
Local businesses sent financial donations to help begin the process reconstruction, and a huge outpouring of support came from within out own community. Residents rushed to help their neighbors in need. Locals sent so many donations that they filled multiple warehouses in Lee County.
“You hear about how the country is divided. But when an incident like this happens, you really see the best in people. People come together,” said one volunteer.
Over the weekend, the community began the long process or putting back together their lives and their homes. Groups rounded up, threw on their work gloves, and began the tiring process of clearing debris and cleaning up their communities.
Many of the funerals are scheduled for coming this week as families and friends take time to reflect and remember the one’s they’ve lost.
Many say that as they look back on the week they feel sad for the lives and possessions lost but that they are also encouraged by how the community pulled together. They talk about the overflow of support they have received and how they feel that we all as a community helped each other through this.