Community comes together as recovery from storm damage begins in Decatur

DECATUR, Ala. - Straight line winds hit areas of Decatur hard on Tuesday night, and now residents are beginning the recovery process.

Mayor Tab Bowling said 70-80 homes were damaged during the storm, and Wednesday as the sun rose the damage assessment began. Bowling thanked the police, fire, and street and environmental department for their response.

"The city of Decatur took a tough hit last night to our homeowners, and it hurts when we see our residents standing on their front porch where they don't have a home," he stated. "Hardest hit was Northwest Decatur."

Bowling said a lot of large trees came down, and they need time to repair structures and sidewalks. There was no firm timeline on that infrastructure repair as of Wednesday afternoon.

"We haven't seen this kind of damage in Decatur since April 3, 1974," he said. "Yesterday was April 3, 2018," he noted, commenting on the irony there.

City officials said they used the weather event to sharpen their communication skills and they will do what they can to learn more from how the night unfolded.

If your home or business has been damaged, Bowling said you should contact your insurance provider as soon as you can.

Decatur Police will also be out through Wednesday night to make sure damaged homes and properties are secure. The City Council of Decatur voted Wednesday afternoon to suspend the costs for building permits on structures that received damage from the storms.

We found Al Robinson working on his home Wednesday afternoon. Trees had come crashing onto the roof and through the porch. He said he felt lucky that the trees didn't come into the areas where his family members were sleeping, but waking up in the morning the cleanup felt overwhelming.

"All of a sudden, I saw this big job before us, and no help. Just my son," he noted.

But soon, help arrived in the form of strangers. People Robinson didn't know pulled over and started to clean up alongside them.

"They're from all over," he said. "Right at the nick of time, we were getting ready to quit. All the energy had just gone, but they revived us."

Chasity Hill, her husband, and her daughter were the reinforcements Robinson first met.

"We were just driving and we came through here and saw them working. We decided to stop. We actually gave them water this morning and told them we would come back with some more muscle. We brought that muscle!" she laughed, looking over her shoulder to the group of volunteers.

Hill's daughter also rounded up some friends. The group, alongside Robinson's family and others who stopped to say hello, peeled branches off the lawn and cut up tree chunks. Robinson's son tells WHNT News 19 that when they started, they could barely see the front of the house from the street but the momentum through the evening was strong.

Robinson said he has more help coming Thursday.

"This did something for my spirit. And also it helped my family!" he said. "My family came closer because of this."

"This just makes me happy, seeing people come together as one," said Hill.

Everyone we spoke with in Decatur is thankful no serious injuries or deaths were reported during this storm. For the amount of damage seen in the River City, first responders say that's a marvel.

"I called on my phone and checked on people, you know," said Regina Swift, who we found outside her home that was unharmed during the storm. "They were all ok," she stated of her friends. "And then, I was ok."

"We are thankful to be in the Tennessee Valley. We know the people of the Tennessee Valley will be praying for the city of Decatur as we go through this recovery process. We are a strong group of people. We will be fine," commented Bowling.