Putnam County mayor: March tornado caused $100M in damages

Posted at 5:06 PM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-04 10:24:21-04

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Officials said the tornado in March that killed 19 people in Putnam County caused $100 million in damages.

Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter said the recent numbers came from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, right before the six-month mark of the deadly EF-4 tornado. The county is still in what Porter calls a recovery and rebuilding phase that stalled earlier because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roughly 700 structures, businesses and homes were either damaged or destroyed by the tornado. The McBroom Chapel Road and Herald Court areas near Cookeville were hit particularly hard.

Despite many homes being wiped out, some families are choosing to rebuild on the exact same spot. Permits were granted for 30 homes for reconstruction, some of which were sold to developers to sell to new owners. Many other properties sit empty with driveways as the only sign of the former structure.

Survivors like Teria Ridley said it was too painful to return. The street where she lived had 12 of the 13 homes leveled by the tornado and several residents killed including Todd and Sue Koehler.

"Our neighbors were like family, they really were. We lost several that day," Ridley tearfully said.

Ridley had enough time to buckle the motorcycle helmet while in the bathtub with her husband when the tornado sucked them out. They do not remember much after being pulled from their home, but they recall waking up at arms length from each other.

"You're just thankful to be here," Ridley told NewsChannel 5. "Physically we're much better but mentally, it's a roller coaster."

The county wound up with a $2.3 million disaster relief fund that benefited 468 families. The cost to cleanup totaled $3 million for Putnam County alone.