Cookeville tornado victims encouraged by President Trump's visit

Posted at 8:21 PM, Mar 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-06 21:24:40-05

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — President Donald Trump’s visit to Putnam County was a welcome sight for many residents including tornado victims.

As the community continues with its recovery effort following the EF-4 tornado that killed 18 people, the president made stops in some of the devastated areas.

Rick Newman lives across Herald Court, one of the areas where he said at least five people died. He and his wife survived the tornado even after their roof was blown away.

Newman said having the president in the county gives the right exposure for more assistance, despite strong opinions that his visit was politically motivated.

“If that’s what people want to think that’s fine because if he uses this to help us out then that’s fine,” Newman told NewsChannel 5. “I’m enthused he’s visiting.”

Trump traveled to Putnam County in his Marine One after landing at Berry Field in Nashville in Air Force One. Digital billboards could be seen throughout Cookeville of Trump hugging and American flag.

READ MORE: President Trump surveys tornado damage in Putnam County

When he was leaving in his motorcade, dozens of supporters lined the streets cheering him in. One woman could be heard saying, “Cookeville loves you!”

NewsChannel 5 spoke to several people about his visit, with most approving it. Tricia Clark, who had major damage to her roof, said it’s the right thing to do despite political beliefs.

“That’s what presidents are supposed to do no matter who you are, that’s your role and that’s your job and you should be for our communities,” Clark said.

A disaster declaration was signed by the president on Thursday, allowing federal funds to assist the county and individual victims. The county mayor said he hopes the exact amount the tornado damage will cost will be determined next week. Officials said 120 homes were destroyed and 500 structures had some type of damage.

Officials said volunteers are allowed to help again on Saturday but they must sign up on the county website under the emergency news section. Not everyone will be allowed in but they’re encouraged to sign up for a later date.