Volunteers turn out to help Paulding tornado victims

A week after a tornado left a nine-mile path of destruction in western Paulding County, several hundred volunteers gathered Saturday to help homeowners clear the debris.

The Rev. Paul Richardson, who coordinated the cleanup, said as many as eight churches and at least 300 volunteers helped with the effort.

“There is a lot of work to do, and we are getting as much work done as we can,” Richardson said. “There will be a lot of work for some time to come.”

Paulding officials said the EF-3 tornado’s 165 mph winds destroyed 14 homes in the county. An additional 57 homes had moderate damage, and 92 houses had minor damage.

The tornado also destroyed a large hangar at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, which reopened to flights Friday morning. Eighteen of the 23 planes at the airport were a total loss, according to airport manager Blake Swafford. Damage at the airport was estimated at $5 million.

Poole Elementary School on Wayside Lane also suffered a direct hit, losing part of its roof. Several portable classroom trailers were overturned.

Volunteers gathered at Poole on Saturday were asked to bring wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes, gloves, chainsaws and other items needed to remove trees, tree limbs and trash.

Richardson said he helped organize the cleanup in 2009 after floods ravaged the same area. While many homeowners have since taken out insurance to cover direct hits on their homes from such disasters, the insurance does not cover fallen debris such as downed trees outside their homes.

Richardson said Saturday’s volunteers will be a big help in clearing trees and fallen branches, which otherwise would cost homeowners hundreds of dollars.

Richardson said the volunteers focused on helping homeowners in 19 “hotspots” where damage was greatest. Those areas included sections of Mount Olivet Road in Dallas, Thorn Ticket Drive in Rockmart and Wayside Lane in the area of Poole Elementary.