Tornadoes took nine lives in Bradley County and caused tens of millions dollars in damage and loss.
From the onset and even prior to, Cleveland-Bradley County Emergency Management Agency was alert and prepared, and have been praised by local, state and federal officials regarding the handling of the multiple tornado events as well as the aftermath and governmental red tape.
“We got lucky,” said Troy Spence, director of the local agency.
But federal officials have a different view, citing the actions and coordination of the community efforts and recovery as an example to follow.
Robert Bass, project specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said, “Writing a project to capture donated resources amounting to several hundred thousand dollars speaks to the character and generosity of the citizens of Bradley County.”
The day of the tornadoes was spent coordinating rescuers and other responders in an organized fashion — as well as “dodging” the multiple storms that day.
The impending nightfall at CBCEMA was full of activity as damage assessment teams and faith-based groups as well as individuals began to tackle the problem of fallen trees blocking access to emergency responders and others.
Salvation Army, Hiwassee Chapter of the American Red Cross and many others joined to provide water and food to survivors whose neighborhoods and homes had been damaged or destroyed.
Work continued to move forward with the establishment of an Unmet Needs committee which focused on getting the victims immediate help through donations of goods and commodities.
The Long-Term Recovery Organization began working to look to the future of Bradley County and Cleveland, to rebuild lives and reclaim property.
A year later, recovery funding is beginning to trickle back into the county and future planning is ongoing.
“The most recent tornado on March 2 cost Bradley County approximately $700,000. The state of Tennessee didn’t meet the threshold of $8.5 million dollars which would have qualified Tennessee to receive individual county assistance,” Spence said.
“Even though Bradley County had approximately $400,000 over the $300,000 qualifying Bradley County figure, the state threshold fell short by approximately $2.5 million,” he added.
“Bradley County has recovered $164,087 from the April 2011 storms. The city of Cleveland has had some recovery funding returned and additional [funding] is expected to schools and other departments,” Spence said.
As for the future, CBCEMA has received word the comprehensive Mitigation Plan mandated by FEMA has been approved at the state level and passed onto FEMA for its approval.
“We have to plan for the future,” Spence said regarding the plan which now includes the storm information of 2011.