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TN tornado recovery looks long

Cleanup continues in Morgan County, Tenn., where an F3 tornado Nov. 10 tore apart three communities.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | MORGAN COUNTY, Tenn. | January 4, 2003

"We're not going to quit until everyone we can serve has been served."

—Randy Hatten

Cleanup still continues in Morgan County, Tenn., where an F3 tornado killed seven people Nov. 10 and tore apart three communities.

One of those communities, Mossy Grove, was virtually wiped out by the twister, and tornado damage in the state was severe enough for President Bush to issue a federal disaster declaration.

Nearly two months later, volunteers are still working to bring some semblance of normalcy back to people's lives.

Will Rabert, disaster response and recovery liaison for Church World Service, said the long-term recovery effort is well-organized, and combines the work of volunteers in five affected counties Roane, Cumberland, Anderson and Scott, as well as Morgan.

"The five counties have come together and are working together," Rabert said.

Rabert, a veteran disaster responder, has served as "a resource when needed," and helped the long-term recovery committee get established.

Rabert said "quite a bit of progress was being made" in the Morgan County communities, where tons of debris have been removed and several new houses have been constructed.

The Rev. Tom Mooty, director of the recovery committee and pastor of the First Baptist Church in Wartburg, said the committee is coordinating the efforts of dozens of groups.

Recently volunteer teams sent by the Tennessee Baptist Convention, Carson Newman College and Tennessee Technical University have cleaned up debris in Morgan County.

Three houses have already been completed in Mossy Grove, and another three in Joyner.

In addition, five mobile homes have been set up in Morgan County, and another four stick-built homes are under construction.

Habitat for Humanity has also been a big force in recovery efforts there, Mooty said.

Randy Hatten, director of the Habitat chapter based in Wartburg, said he and his volunteers have already completed one house and have three more in the works.

But they have also been helping with debris cleanup, something they normally don't do.

"We've just jumped into this with both feet," he said. "We're not going to quit until everyone we can serve has been served."

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