MT. JULIET - Business owners in the tornado ravaged corridor along Lebanon Road were busy picking up the pieces this week.
It was a community trying to right itself from the devastation caused by a confirmed EF2 tornado that ravaged many businesses, the Little League Park and several homes in the area from Nonaville Road to Benders Ferry Road predawn last Wednesday.
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. There is some talk that the building might have to be razed and rebuilt.
Nearby, Ted Bertuca, Jr., owner of the McDonalds that had its roof blown off, was inside the restaurant overseeing the massive cleanup.
"We've got a lot to do," he said last Friday. "We've been working 36 hours straight through."
They are now open.
Bertuca said there were three employees in the store with the tornado hit.
"They went to the designated safe place," he said. "No one was hurt."
Workers put on a new roof.
"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 at 3:30 p.m. that same day.
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 last Wednesday. "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, Autozone reopened at 11:30 a.m. that morning. Both of the front windows had been blown out and they were being repaired.
Little League cleanup
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 then. "We have a call for volunteers both Saturday and Sunday."
According to League Director of Field and Maintenance Ed Tiger, about 70 volunteers showed up Saturday and Sunday.
"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 that destroyed the park two years ago. That price tag was about $200,000.
"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. There are a handful that need to be replaced.
While discouraged, Tignor said that 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 Wal Mart also contributed, among others.
The rescheduled tryouts will take place this Saturday at the park.
The park is one of the oldest in Tennessee and over 1,400 children participate each season.
Martin said the city will provide specialized inspections for the businesses impacted by the tornado.
"This should hopefully help them get back up and running much sooner," he said.
Managing Editor Laurie Everett can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 46 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org