Smith’s Institute bore brunt of storm

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By Donna Thornton/News Editor

As cleanup continues in the Smith’s Institute area, the United Way has information on how people can help.

A donation management center is open at The Future Home of Free Life Church at 255 Main Street, just off U.S. 431 across from Sand Mountain Drive-in. The site will accept donations between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday-Friday. Items needed include non-perishable food, batteries, toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, etc.), trash bags, gloves, and water/Gatorade. No clothing donations will be accepted.

To donate money, contact the American Red Cross/Etowah County at 256-547-8667 or United Way of Etowah County at 256-547-2581.

To donate time and effort, check in at the volunteer registration site at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church at 5850 Sardis Road. The volunteer center will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Volunteers also may call 2-1-1 or 256-546-HELP.

Help with the cleanup may be needed for some time.

“I live on Horton Gap Road. War zone. Trees gone.  Houses gone,” one Facebook message posted Tuesday morning read.

Horton Gap Road was one of several areas in northern Etowah County experiencing the wrath of two waves of severe thunderstorms/tornadoes in the late night Monday-early morning Tuesday hours.

“Smith’s Institute took the brunt of it,” GECEMA’s Patrick Huselton said of the bout of bad weather that began Monday night. There was light damage in Sardis and other areas, but no reports of serious injuries.

“It’s a mess,” Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin told Etowah County Commissioners at a Tuesday morning work session, before heading back out to the unified command center at Bethlehem Baptist Church on Sardis Road, near Smith’s Institute.

Working the scene overnight, Entrekin said, sheriff’s office personnel (including him) “tore up a few trucks” trying to get to people to help them, and could not get a full appreciation of what the weather system wrought.

“When the sun broke this morning, we were amazed that we didn’t have a lot of fatalities,” Entrekin said. “We’ve had only a couple of minor injuries.”

Huselton said the early estimate was 150 homes affected by the storm. He had no more detailed break down: affected could mean a shutter blown off or a home destroyed. Damage assessment was getting underway Thursday.

A number of homes were destroyed, and many others were heavily damaged, Entrekin said.

If there was a bright spot to talk about, it was that talk between personnel and departments was much easier during this severe weather situation than it was in January, when a surprise winter storm paralyzed much of Etowah and surrounding counties.

“The new communication system worked well,” Entrekin said. “Everybody was able to talk to one another.

“Everyone did an outstanding job,” he said.

“We had a large inmate work crew in the area helping to clear debris from the road ways,” Entrekin said, and county road crews worked through the night.

Agencies involved in assisting residents in the area are: Etowah County Sheriff’s Office, Sardis Police Department, Sardis Fire Department, Alabama Baptist disaster relief teams, Gadsden Fire Department, Boaz Fire Department, Reece City Fire Department, Sand Valley Fire Department, Marshall County Heavy Rescue Team, Douglas Police Department, A-Med Ambulance, Advantage Ambulance, Rural Metro Ambulance, Etowah County Road Department and numerous community volunteers. 

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