Editor's Note: This is the last installment of stories about the one-year anniversary of the tornado touching down in Reedsville and Belleville on Sept. 16, 2010. The News and Sentinel three-part series ran on Friday, Saturday and today.
BELLEVILLE - Residents in Belleville are coping and rebuilding a year after the tornado that caused widespread damage and killed one man on Sept. 16, 2010.
Aided by the community and agencies, among residents helped were Larry and Marilyn Sellers of 1528 Lee Creek Road, who lost their garage and a car, besides other damages. Sellers praised the Belleville Baptist Church for bringing food to residents along Lee Creek Road during the cleanup efforts.
Photo by Wayne Towner
The Belleville Community Center escaped damage in the 2010 tornado, although its grounds were damaged. The building sheltered several people during the tornado and served as an operations center during the cleanup.
"All kinds of people helped us," he said.
In the past year, the garage has been rebuilt and a new roof put on their home, Sellers said. No longer are there signs of damage on their property, although where a large tree was uprooted has been replaced by a flower garden, and the creek which runs through the property was also cleared of debris to prevent blockages and flooding.
"But it will never be the same," Sellers said.
Sellers, a retired police officer from California, has experienced earthquakes, but the tornado was different. It came and went much more quickly, he said.
"We're very watchful of storms now," he said. "I didn't like lightning before and now I hate it."
Mendy Kemp and her husband, Dave, and their two children live at 1868 Lee Creek Road.
While planning to build a house, a year ago, they were living in a converted garage apartment with the living room on the top floor and bedrooms and bathroom on the ground floor . Mrs. Kemp and the children were upstairs when the winds started and the electricity flickered.
She lit candles and began to hear a noise like an approaching train.
Their garage apartment was severely damaged. However, when he was building the concrete block structure, Kemp said her husband used reinforcing rods in the blocks and she believes that, along with their prayers, helped save them.
"We weren't harmed at all. The house was a disaster, pretty much totally destroyed and not livable, but we walked out without a scratch," she said.
Much has been done to return to normal, and much remains to be done, she said.
"I can't even tell you how many people I would like to thank," she said.
Kemp said she still gets emotional when she recalls the help from friends, family, employers and the community, especially the Lubeck Volunteer Fire Department immediately after the tornado. Within a week after the tornado, friends allowed them to live in a house while they rebuilt.
"We were blessed. I will never forget all of those people that came to help us. It was amazing," Kemp said.
Of the seven barns and buildings on the Kemp property, all were destroyed by the tornado.
The garage apartment is the only original structure remaining and has been repaired.
The house they are now building was a project they planned to do in a few years, but the tornado changed their plans, Kemp said. They began construction in March and expect to complete the house in November with plans to move in by Thanksgiving.
After the house is completed, they will then begin rebuilding barns and outbuildings, she said.
"There is so much that we still have to do, it will take us years and we're going to have to do that gradually," Kemp said. "Our priority is the home and getting back on the farm, and then eventually we need an equipment shed, we need a barn. All of that's just going to have to come in time," she said.
Sheila and Kevin Townsend of 3978 Lee Creek Road had only moved into their home a year before the tornado struck. No one was at home, which was severely damaged, when the tornado hit. Instead they were at the Belleville Community Center helping a son and other teens work on a float for the Belleville Homecoming.
They soon learned the tornado struck along Lee Creek Road, but didn't immediately know it had affected their property. The tornado damaged 15 structures and killed livestock on the farm that was in the Townsend family for many years.
They focused on repairing their house and making other necessary repairs, including cleaning debris from the pastures and installing new fencing to keep livestock. A year after the tornado, they are ready to start replacing the outbuildings, but they continue to find debris and other items in their fields and the woods around the property.
Despite the passage of a year, much work remains, Mrs. Townsend said.
"People in Belleville look at storms differently now," she said.
David Santee lives on Slate Creek Road just off Lee Creek Road. Recently, Santee was mowing his yard on a riding mower, a far cry from the excavator he used to clean debris a year before.
Like others, the Santees also received help from family and friends. In the year since the tornado, Santee said his home is back on its foundation, but his yard isn't in the shape he wants it. Downed trees have not been removed.
"It's never going to be the same," Santee said.
Santee doesn't plan to mark the one-year anniversary.
"As far as I'm concerned, I hope its just another weekend," he said. "I don't want to see another like it."