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Sat April 30, 2011
Around the Nation

Small Towns Struggle After Storms' Destruction

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:55 am

It's been three days since tornadoes ravaged the South, killing more than 300 people. In some areas not much has changed; there's no power, no water, no gas. People are struggling to get on with their day-to-day lives.

In northeast Alabama, parts of Tennessee and the northwest corner of Georgia, people are sitting in long lines waiting to buy gas.

Nicholas Goodridge was thrilled that this service station in Rising Fawn, Ga., just across the Alabama border, was open.

"We're filling up my car and two of our gas cans, and my granddad is filling up two of his gas cans and there's a $100 limit," he says. "We don't have power and we've been running a generator for several days – actually, two days.

There was still no power in this area Friday, but the station was using a generator to operate the pumps. In fact, much of the power in northeastern Alabama has not been restored, but people here are making do.

In DeKalb County near Rainsville, splintered tree stumps and shattered buildings line state Highway 35. The tornado was so powerful it killed 25 people having supper in a Huddle House restaurant. There's little left of the place. Officials say it may take a few more days or up to a week restore power in some remote areas.

The Wal-Mart parking lot is one of the few places that was bustling. Tip Pack, with the Fort Payne police, is directing traffic. "Are you needing fuel?" he asked one driver. "No, I'm trying to get my medicine," the man responded. "Ok, alright. You're probably better off to go right down through there and just find you somewhere to park," Pack instructed.

"They just started pumping fuel and stuff today, and every city and town around us is without power also, so it's bad everywhere," Pack said.

A line of cars and trucks snaked through the parking lot, growing longer throughout the day as people found out the store and the pumps were open.

Yvonne Mason, a fifth-grade teacher at Fort Payne Middle School, was trying to pick up a few groceries — something that didn't need to be refrigerated. She's still shaken because so many people, at least 32, were confirmed dead in this single rural county.

"It bothers me at night," she says. I wake up and I think about the loss of life, but the people in the area are good people — strong people."

"If you noticed, people are calm and they're courteous and we're helping each other and we'll get through it. It's just a matter of taking one day at a time," she says. "Deal with this day, and then tomorrow comes, and we'll deal with it."

Everyone wants to see power restored. They'd like to take a hot shower and get a home-cooked meal. But so many say they can't complain; they got away with their lives.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

It's been three days since tornadoes ravaged the South, killing more than 300 people. Some areas are still without power, water and gas.

As NPR's Kathy Lohr reports, many people in the affected region are struggling just to get on with their day-to-day lives.

(Soundbite of a vehicle)

KATHY LOHR: In northeast Alabama, parts of Tennessee and the northwest corner of Georgia, people are sitting in long lines waiting to buy gas.

(Soundbite of gas nozzle)

LOHR: Nicholas Goodridge was thrilled that this service station in Rising Fawn, Georgia, just across the Alabama border, was open.

Mr. NICHOLAS GOODRIDGE: We're filling up my car and two of our gas cans, and my granddad is filling up two of his gas cans. And there's a hundred dollar limit. We don't have power and we've been running a generator for several days actually, two days.

LOHR: There was still no power in this area Friday but the station was using a generator to operate the pumps. In fact, much of the power in northeastern Alabama has not been restored, but people here are making do.

In DeKalb County, near Rainsville, splintered tree stumps and shattered buildings line State Highway 35. The tornado was so powerful it killed 25 people having supper in a Huddle House Restaurant. There's little left of the place. Officials say it may take a few more days or up to a week to restore power in some remote areas.

The Wal-Mart parking lot is one of the few places that is bustling. Tip Pack with the Fort Payne police is directing traffic.

Officer TIP PACK (Fort Wayne Police Department): Are you needing fuel?

Unidentified Man: No. I'm trying to get my medicine.

Officer PACK: Okay, all right. You're probably better off to go right down through there and just find you somewhere to park.

They've just started pumping fuel and stuff today, and every city and town around us is without power also. So it's bad everywhere.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LOHR: A line of cars and trucks snaked through the parking lot and grew longer throughout the day, as people found out the store and the pumps were open.

Yvonne Mason, a fifth grade teacher at Fort Payne Middle School, was here trying to pick up a few groceries - something that doesn't need to be refrigerated. She's still shaken because so many people, at least 32, were confirmed dead in this single rural county.

Ms. YVONNE MASON (Teacher, Fort Payne Middle School): It bothers me at night. I wake up and I think about the loss of life. But the people in the area are strong people. They're good people. And if you've noticed, people are calm and they're courteous, and we're helping each other. And we'll get through it, it's just a matter of, you know, taking one day at a time and deal with this day. And then tomorrow comes and we'll deal with it.

LOHR: Everyone wants to see power restored. They'd like to take a hot shower and get a home-cooked meal. But so many say they can't complain; they got away with their lives.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News.

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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