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Community steps up to plate in park cleanup

Laurie Everett mtjulietnews@tds.net • Updated Jul 29, 2013 at 9:12 AM

MT. JULIET - A week after the Lebanon Road business district was ravaged by an EF2 tornado, things are getting back to some semblance of normalcy.

While blue tarps still cover some damaged roofs and plywood protects where windows were blown out, most of the damage is repaired and businesses are up and running.

The Dollar General store and Subway took the biggest hit from the twister that packed 116 mph winds. Both are still closed. The owner of Subway said he did not know when his restaurant would re-open, but he is working toward that goal.

A construction crew has been on site at the Dollar General store all week. How best to rebuild the structure has been discussed. There is some talk about bulldozing the building and starting from scratch.

“As for the resiliency of our citizens and this great community, the term extraordinary could be used times 10,” said city manager Kenneth Martin. “Most of the businesses are now back open and those that aren't are well on their way.”

Martin said the city would provide specialized inspections for the businesses impacted by the tornado.

“This should hopefully help them get back up and running much sooner,” he said.

Martin said there have been hundreds of volunteers on site along the tornado’s path, cleaning up and helping rebuild.

“They don't call us the Volunteer State for nothing," he said. "Well over 100 local citizens, moms, dads, children and volunteers converged on the Mt. Juliet Little League Park this weekend, and the park is looking so much better.”

The tornado roared through the park and uprooted trees, tore down fences and toppled light poles. Two years ago, floodwaters inundated the park and caused more than $200,000 in damage.

According to League Director of Field and Maintenance Ed Tignor, about 70 volunteers showed up Saturday and Sunday to help clean up and do minor repairs.

“They picked up a ton of debris that came from the roof of the Lineberry building,” he said. “We had former board members, parents and families here. Also people who heard about what happened here came to help."

One dugout was re-roofed, and Jones Brothers rented a boom lift for the effort.

Tignor said the tornado caused more monetary damage than the flood.

“But now we have to replace the lighting and poles,” he said. “They’ve been up for 30 years, and they are extremely expensive to replace.”

He said a bid to replace just one field light was $75,000. A handful need to be replaced.

While discouraged, Tignor said the response from the community gives him "hope."

"People still want to help others," he said.

The Hermitage Home Depot donated $5,000 to the cleanup effort, and Dick’s Sporting Goods donated $3,000. Academy Sports, Lowes and Walmart also contributed, among others.

The rescheduled tryouts will take place Saturday at the park.

The park is one of the oldest in Tennessee, and more than 1,400 children participate each season.

“Thousands of dollars have been donated, and lots of smiling little faces will soon take to the fields again thanks to countless wonderful human beings who have put community above self, and I could not be prouder,” Martin said.

Though some residents complained they did not hear the tornado sirens prior to the touchdown, Wilson Emergency Management officials said they were set off with each of the four tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Service that morning. The sirens were tested on Saturday.

“The test of the sirens went great, and all are performing correctly, I'm told by WEMA representatives,” said Martin.

Mt. Juliet Police Chief James Hambrick said he was proud of all the responders in the wake of the tornado.

“We are just blessed it didn't hit in a residential area or at a different time where the businesses would have been more occupied,” said Hambrick.

A mobile home park is located about 500 yards from the tornado’s path.

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