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Storm brings outreach from community

It is amazing what one small turn can mean. I am talking about the turn of a powerful storm or the turn of a hand to offer assistance.
I was watching the weather on TV last Wednesday night like most of you were. The radar images placed across the map of our region looked like a strategic military formation in a losing battle.
Our neighbors in Greene County were getting hit hard, and chances were great that it could turn and head toward Unicoi County. In fact, at one point, it did get close, with only a mountain range separating us. It was then that I felt the wind pick up outside my home and I waited to see what was next.
Fortunately we were spared this time. I grew up thinking storms like this weren’t possible for our area, but it seems we see more and more of these rare patterns and extremes nowadays. In fact, just this year, we went from what was one of our harshest winters in a long time to almost instant spring and summer.
I heard many residents last Thursday saying how blessed we are to live in these mountains and that once again, they have protected us. I am sure to some extent that is true, but I also know that something much greater than the storm and bigger than these mountains was also watching over us, as well.
As the reports started coming in, it was quickly more evident just how blessed we are and how powerful the storm was that had skirted along our borders.
Brenda Sparks from our office volunteered to go to the site and make the photos you see in this issue. Her demeanor, upon return, reflected the heartbreak and devastation she had witnessed.
The residents were in a state of shock, and for them, it was a dark time in their lives. But naturally speaking, when things are the darkest, any light shining is bright. I am sure such was the case with every effort that was shown to them during their time of need.
Road Superintendent Terry Haynes traveled down with crews from Unicoi County and immediately started clearing debris to open up roads. It could have just as easily been Greene County coming our way, had the storm made the slightest turn.
It was just a few weeks back that Haynes had experienced damage on his own property here in the county, and the damage still wasn’t cleared up. But, this was something that made his own damage seem small and the previous storm like a gentle summer breeze.
The same night Terry suffered damage, I had water rushing out of control down my road in the south end of the county. He had equipment and workers up there in no time flat to address what they could in the dark. They were back early the next couple of mornings until the problem was fixed.
I have always known Terry to be attentive to the needs of our county, and always somewhere on the scene himself.
That held true, as well, Thursday when he and a crew helped out our neighboring county.
We also had members from our local fire departments there lending a hand however they could.
I spoke with Director of Schools Denise Brown Thursday and she was telling me her husband Lee, manager of Erwin Utilities, had planned to take off on Friday for the two of them to enjoy some time together, but he felt like he needed to take work crews to Greene County instead. She was fully supportive.
I talked to Lee on Monday and he had helped from Thursday night through Sunday. I said that I was sure he was tired. He responded, “But at least I had a home to come back to.”
Sunday, at Mountain Dale Freewill Baptist, it seemed to be the shared feeling of all that we were blessed to have escaped. It was agreed to send a donation to the American Red Cross, designated to the storm victims.
Erwin Chief of Police Regan Tilson is assisting us with those efforts. He, too, has put effort into securing help for those in need.
I am sure there were more from our county who went to assist and many more who sent up prayers on behalf of the victims. We never know just how great a small act of kindness can be until we are the ones in need of it.
It makes me proud to be a resident of Unicoi County and to call these mountains my home.