Day 3: Recovery efforts underway in Cairo

Day 3: Recovery efforts continue in Cairo
Cairo Washington Dr. Recovery/Church Storm Supply Giveaway

CAIRO, GA (WALB) - Three days have passed since an EF-2 tornado hit Cairo, leaving many Syrup City residents with almost nothing.

The official city-wide debris clean up began Wednesday.

Grady County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) officials told WALB that Georgia Department of Transportation crews have already transported 35 loads of storm debris to the Cairo landfill.

City leaders said they’re amazed by how quickly the community has broken down their debris.

Leaders also said only debris like trees should be in a pile for pickup.

The same debris cleanup protocol that was in place after Hurricane Michael, officials pointed out, is being followed.

City leaders said crews will work 12-hour shifts through Saturday.

They hope by then the bulk of the debris will be collected.

After Saturday, they will send crews out accordingly.

Cairo’s City Manager Chris Addleton said in this time of emergency, you can take your debris to the landfill, free of charge.

Addleton said he hopes this will make things easier for everyone.

“Hurricane Michael, we were just getting over that and then this. It’s been tough on us, but we come together in time of need and we will get it done," said Addleton.

Addleton said they encourage everyone to get as much debris to the roadside in the coming days. This way they can accurately determine how many crews are needed and for how long.

Waiting for power

Many residents said they’re concerned about when their power will be turned back on.

Some homes received too much damage for power to be restored, according to Richard Phillips, the Grady EMA director.

Officials said residents need to check with an insurance provider to make sure it’s safe to have electricity on in their home following Sunday’s storm.

After Grady County EMA assessed overall damage in the city, they found 127 homes and 38 businesses are damaged.

Grateful for #GradyUnbroken

Other families said they’re just happy to be alive.

One family described the tornado as three minutes of absolute terror.

County leaders said that even though the tornado was sporadic throughout Cairo, it created concentrated pockets of destruction.

“It’s pretty devastating," said Cairo resident David Morton.

Morton lives in a corner lot home with his wife. He said they took immediate action once the tornado sirens sounded.

Moments later, windows were shattering behind them as they run for cover in the back of their home.

“I told her to get down. We were going up the hallway and I started hearing trees fall on the roof,” said Morton.

Not knowing how extensive the damage was they stayed trapped inside their bathroom.

And before they knew it, they heard their neighbors yelling out for them.

"About 10 minutes later, people start coming, yelling for us, asking if we’re OK,” said Morton.

And somehow they managed to escape unscathed.

As a fireman, he didn’t want emergency personnel rushing to their home when they could be rescuing someone else.

"I went and grabbed my radio and called 911 dispatch and let them know my location and that I had trees on the house, and let the guys know that we were OK, but we were still inside,” explained Morton.

Spray painted at the front of his driveway now is a yellow X.

The universal sign that those in that house are OK. And each day Morton comes back, he’s reminded of what’s truly important.

"Everyday I come back and I look, I just think about how blessed we are to still be here, to be alive,” said Morton.

And even in this dark time, Morton finds humor to lighten the mood.

"They’re handing out tarps and everything, but I don’t think we’re going to need a tarp,” said Morton.

Morton’s home was a total loss.

But, he said he knows there are better things ahead.

Finding help in the midst of destruction

And for those families like Morton’s who have been left with next to nothing or nothing at all, there are many stations like Wilson Chapel that are ready to assist you.

As of Wednesday, the American Red Cross closed its shelter. However, officials with the Red Cross said they’ll be handing out warm meals until Friday.

They'll be located at the Wilson Chapel on Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard.

There, you’ll also find a station set-up, handing out a variety of items.

Lafaye Copeland, the Grady County Commission chairman, is spearheading this relief center.

“Just to have everything at one stop so they can pick it up and go. Anything from a meal to toiletries, or anything that you need in your house," said Copeland.

Copeland said if you need any kind of help to come to the Wilson Chapel.

Red Cross officials said if you can’t make it, an emergency response vehicle will be driving in devastated neighborhoods on Thursday.

The Wilson Chapel station is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Copyright 2019 WALB. All rights reserved.