- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

MOSSY GROVE, Tenn. (AP) Kevin Freels and his family have gotten used to hearing a common question as they pick through their battered belongings and try to rebuild their lives.
"People say, 'Are you guys going to move?'" said Mr. Freels, 31, who hid with his family in the bathroom of their brick home to survive a tornado that leveled their neighborhood. "Where are you going to move to and be safe? We don't know what we are going to do."
Uncertainty abounds in Mossy Grove, a tiny town in Morgan County in eastern Tennessee that was among the hardest hit by the spate of tornadoes that pummeled the region this week.
The storms killed 35 persons in five states, including 16 in Tennessee. Emergency officials said Tuesday that all residents were accounted for, but at least 80 persons in the state were injured.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, including Director Joe M. Allbaugh, arrived yesterday to assess the damage. Local officials were awaiting a disaster declaration that would bring federal aid.
State Rep. John Mark Windle, who represents Morgan County, said the declaration could come as early as today. It would help victims get temporary housing, transportation and loans to rebuild.
Officials said Morgan County should easily qualify based on the damage.
"All you have to do is look," Mr. Windle said.
Telephone service returned to Morgan County on Tuesday, crews worked to restore power and roads reopened. But much was left to be done.
"This has been a very devastating situation for this county," state Highway Patrol Lt. Bryan Farmer said after visiting with victims. "Everyone in the nation needs to pray for the citizens here and the affected families."
The Red Cross, the Salvation Army and a Southern Baptist food relief team arrived to provide hot meals and vouchers for victims to buy goods at the Dollar General.
Salvation Army chaplains Joe and Melissa Irvine walked among the Mossy Grove community offering grief counseling. They found many victims still in shock, not sure what they will do next.
"They know they have a long way to go," Mr. Irvine said.
Volunteers came from across the region to help sort through the rubble and begin the cleanup.
Ron Hendrix of Oak Ridge used his day off from a Home Depot to pluck family photos from trees and bushes in front of a demolished house.
"These little things count the most," he said. "The rest can be replaced."
Kingston construction company owner Don Piercy drove a bulldozer through the neighborhood Tuesday, collecting what were once homes into piles to be hauled off.
"Most everyone up here is volunteering their time," Mr. Piercy said. "This is what Tennesseans do. We take care of each other."


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