One Year Later: How Greensboro Is Still Recovering From EF2 Tornado
On Sunday, April 15, 2018, an EF2 tornado touched down on the eastern side of Greensboro. One man was killed in the storm when a tree fell on his car, and the path of destruction left behind spanned several miles. There’s been a lot of recovery and healing in the community since then, but city leaders say more work is needed.
WFDD’s Keri Brown talked with Stan Wilson, director of neighborhood development for the city, to find what’s being done to help the community move forward.
On the storm damage in Guilford County:
The tornado was moving around 135 miles an hour, and the twister cut through a 34-mile path devastating over 1,000 structures and caused damage of over $40 million, and that includes homes and buildings as well.
Three elementary schools remain closed. Obviously the children have been reassigned to different schools. We are still waiting for the school system to decide what’s going to happen to those buildings and what are possible uses for the property as well.
On the housing situation one year later:
At this point we have 53 homes that we are working with. We have 33 repaired, so we’re working with families now helping repair the remainder. And also when you talk about long-term recovery, as a group we are looking to buy properties that are in the neighborhood and begin to build new homes because we want to maintain home ownership there and really build back the neighborhood better than it was.
One of the things we are also looking at is how we can go out and clear some trees and things like that that are still down to really improve the appearance of the neighborhood. There are still some structures that have been damaged that in some cases need taken down as well, so we are really trying to reach a lot of the landlords that own properties to see what we can do to move those along and get them in [good] condition.
On how the community has changed:
You’ve had families that had to be displaced, so that sense of community that they knew obviously has changed, and talking to families too there are a lot of emotional issues that happened as a result of that. I remember talking to a homeowner who was concerned about debris when the hurricanes came because she didn’t want to relive some of those kinds of issues. So there’s a lot of work left to be done to really help the community be restored to where it was, to help people feel good about their neighborhood again.
The community was great and making donations of over $800,000, and that’s gone a long way for case management, for rental assistance, for rehousing and also a lot of the home repairs. [There's] the city with some of its programs and now we’re stepping in to work with nonprofit groups as we begin to build back, and a big part is the $1 million we’re hoping to get from the state. That will go a long way towards that long-term recovery when you're talking about how we rebuild East Greensboro and make it stronger.
On lessons learned after the natural disaster:
One of the things that we learned was that it’s very hard after a tornado or any kind of a disaster to pull your personal documents and things together that you need, so one of the members of the Storm Recovery Alliance had a flash drive event and people brought in the their documents and scanned them and got them on a flash drive.
One of the things that we also learned and is unfortunate is that there were many contractors and groups that got out there very quickly after the tornado, and we had some people working with contractors that were really more of a scam than anything else, so I think one of the things we learned is how do we get ahead of that. That’s something that as we look to the future these are the kind of things that we’ll plan in advance ... so that in the event something like this happens again, we will be able to respond better and meet needs quicker.
*Follow WFDD’s Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news