Residents pick up the pieces

MT. JULIET - Business owners along the tornado ravaged corridor along Lebanon Road were busy picking up the pieces Thursday. It was a community trying to right itself from the devastation caused by an EF2 tornado that ravaged many businesses, the Little League Park and several homes in the...
Feb 1, 2013
 Photo: Laurie Everett • Mt. Juliet News

Ted Bertuca, Jr. talks with one of the dozens of construction workers in his restaurant to clean up and repair the damage caused by Wednesday's tornado. The restaurant's roof was blown off the building. 

 

MT. JULIET - Business owners along the tornado ravaged corridor along Lebanon Road were busy picking up the pieces Thursday.

It was a community trying to right itself from the devastation caused by an EF2 tornado that ravaged many businesses, the Little League Park and several homes in the area from Nonaville Road to Benders Ferry Road early Wednesday morning. 

While some construction crews were busy cleaning up twisted metal, downed trees and parts of roofs, others had the monumental task of trying to rebuild from scratch.

Shelves full of merchandise still neatly stacked were exposed at the Dollar General store, just feet from a side wall that caved in when the twister tore through. 

Nick Smith and his construction crew were digging through rubble trying to start the monumental task of rebuilding. He didn't know when the store would reopen. 

Nearby, Ted Bertuca, Jr., owner of the McDonald's that had its roof blown off, was inside the restaurant overseeing the massive cleanup. He said they hoped to open Friday.

"We've got a lot to do," he said. "We've been working 36 hours straight through."

Bertuca said there were three employees in the store when the tornado hit.

"They went to the designated safe place," he said. "No one was hurt."

Workers were putting on a new roof, and most of the ceiling was down. 

"We had a lot of water damage," he said. "From the counter back we had no damage, that's where the expensive stuff is."

City Manager Kenneth Martin described the community's rallying efforts with words like "seamless, fantastic, unified, fabulous, wonderful, efficient and effective."

"What a wonderful community," he said. "I would also like to give a special thanks to Prospect Inc., McDonalds, the Bertuca family, Wal-Mart of Mt. Juliet, Chik-Fil-A, Ray Daniel, and Home Depot for all of the extra support and kindness they have shown to us and our community. A very special shout out should also go to MJPD, WEMA and MTEMC. They were absolutely wonderful from beginning to end."

He said Publix reopened Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

Publix Assistant Store Manager Mark Charest said there was no damage at the grocery store, except in the parking lot.

"The city officials wanted us to clear all the debris from the parking lot before we opened," he said. "I think a lot of people think we are closed because many of the businesses here are still closed. We want them to know we are open."

Subway took the biggest hit in the strip mall. The entire storefront caved in. Owner Vimal Patel had the front boarded up and was inside meeting with several people Thursday morning.

"We don't know when we will be open yet," he said. 

Down the street, Auto Zone had a sign that said it would open at 11:30 a.m.  Both of the front windows had been blown out and they were being repaired. 

At the Little League Park, board members were on hand with initial cleanup. The majority of the fences and nets were destroyed by the twister and the fields were ruined. Board member Sean Speight said there were a variety of volunteers on site Thursday preparing the park for parents and community members to arrive Saturday morning at 8 for an official community-wide cleanup. Sheriff Robert Bryan sent six prisoners to get glass and metal off the field. Crews were clearing downed trees.

"We are making it safe for the major cleanup,"  said Speight. "We have a call for volunteers both Saturday and Sunday."

Some things they need help with are picking up trash, minor construction repairs, fixing the netting and more. 

Two years ago the park was flooded and repair costs were about $220,000, said Speight.

"We think it's going to cost about $200,000 this time around again," he said. "We can't get a break."

He said people can donate sweat equity and monetarily.

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

Martin said the city will provide specialized inspections for the 70 businesses impacted by the tornado. 

"This should hopefully help them get back up and running much soon," he said. 

 

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