Tag: March 19 Tornado

Gamecock Guide 2018: #JSUStrong

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The roof of JSU’s Patterson Hall lies in ruin after the March 19 tornado ripped through Jacksonville. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Taylor Mitchell, Chanticleer Reporter


On Monday, March 19th, the first day of spring break for Jacksonville State University, an EF-3 tornado tore a line of destruction through the city of Jacksonville, leaving heartbreak in its wake. The damage was mostly along Alabama Highway 204 and north of Mountain Street. This included Jacksonville State University’s campus and its immediate surroundings. The Reserve apartments were damaged beyond repair, and The Gamecock Village apartment complex was also heavily damaged. The storm also tore through the neighborhoods east of Church Street, a large number of homes were damaged or outright destroyed. The Dollar General on 204 had the entire front wall blown into the store while the employees sheltered inside. The Alumni House lost its roof, Merrill Hall was turned into a ruin, and JSU’s library lost part of its roof. The Avenues, the neighborhood east of Church looked as if a war had been fought and lost. By Tuesday morning a large portion of Jacksonville lay in pieces under trees and rubble.

With the morning, came the clean up. The morning air was alive with the sound of chainsaws cutting trees and hammers attaching tarps to roofs. Police set up checkpoints in affected neighborhoods to keep out looters, and JSU’s campus was completely closed off from the public until it could be deemed safe. Over the ensuing days and weeks volunteers poured into Jacksonville, working piece by piece to shift through the rubble and rebuild buildings. President Trump approved FEMA assistance for Alabama on April 27, opening up federal aid for affected residents.

As for JSU, it was initially announced that campus would reopen on April 2nd. At first, there was much confusion as to what this actually meant. Would classes start back then? Would there be housing for displaced students? Would students even finish the semester? In the coming weeks, all of these questions and more were answered. Dr. Timothy King, JSU’s Vice President of Student Affairs, reached out to students through email and social media and clarified many concerns. Students started back classes on April 9th, and were given the option to take their current grade in a course, take an incomplete, or finish the course normally. Additionally, a “one stop shop” was set up on April 6th and 7th to advise students on what option to take and future plans. On May 4th, only 45 days after the storm, JSU awarded 724 degrees at its spring commencement ceremony. The storm may have affected students in more ways than can be imagined, but it did not stop a single one of them.

 

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A JSU student particularly affected by the storm was Senior Sydney Sorrells. Sorrells lived and worked at the Reserve Apartments. She was at home on the night of the storm with her dog, roommates and boyfriend.

“About five minutes before the storm actually hit everything went dark, the power went out” said Sorrells. The power outage caused people to be locked out of their apartments, which used electric keycard locks. Sorrells began rushing those without shelter into her own apartment. During this time she told me she saw a man pulled from the second floor of an apartment building and thrown to the ground. She and her boyfriend got him into her apartment and as the tornado hit everyone hunkered down in bathrooms. Sorrells had managed to fit several people into her apartment.

“I had about thirty people and two dogs sheltering in my apartment,” reports Sorrells, who sat in her bathroom as she heard her apartment getting ransacked by the storm. After it was over The Reserve gathered the residents in the main office. Sorrells and the other employees tried to help the residents into the office, only to notice the roof was buckling in.

“I was the last one out before the roof collapsed,” said Sorrells. After that she went to her boyfriend’s house and Gamecock Express buses came for students. The next morning Sorrells found her car hit by a dumpster that had flown from somewhere nearby. She also found out she was losing her job due to the closing of the Reserve Apartments. Yet that isn’t the end of the story, Sorrells found a new home and a new job. She, like JSU and the city of Jacksonville, is rebuilding. Jacksonville will rebuild.

The design of relief: JSU alumnae designs shirt to help hurting community

Lauren JacksonStaff Writer

There were warnings all day that severe weather was possible across Alabama on March 19. Schools released students early, and many businesses closed in preparation for the storm to come. The possibility of tornadoes was projected as early as a week in advance, and, throughout the course of the evening, eleven tornadoes broke out across Alabama.

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The shirt designed by JSU alumnae Hannah Green (photo from bonfire.com)

In Jacksonville, at least one tornado was confirmed with winds reaching 140 mph. According to an update provided to the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama, 559 buildings were damaged. Of those damaged, 42 were destroyed, 146 took major damage and 371 took minor damage.

On the night of March 19, when the EF-3 tornado ripped through Jacksonville, Hannah Green was in Rome, Georgia visiting family. Green recently graduated from Jacksonville State University with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and anxiously followed the path of the storm.

“I was panicking. The storm was supposed to come to Rome too, but I was really worried about my friends. I kept messaging them all and trying to make sure they were all okay,” said Green.

By the following morning, Green knew that she wanted to do something to help. She knew that she wanted to make something and to donate but was uncertain of what to make. Green would later design a graphic in support of the community that she would turn into a t-shirt fundraiser. The fundraiser has raised $6,506.

“The idea started with a graphic. I wanted to make something with art. That is what I majored in, and that is how I express myself,” Green said.

Her original goal was to sell 50 shirts, a goal which was met in the first hour of posting them online. The momentum continued to grow as the shirts spread on social media, and Green has sold 651 shirts so far.

“I just wanted to make something that I would want to wear, and that would support the community. Honestly, it has been just so overwhelming that so many people have chosen to support my shirt. There were so many other shirts they could have chosen. My original goal was to raise $400 then it got to $1,000 and then $2,000 and it just kept growing! I am excited to see what it can do for people,” said Green.

Green decided to donate the money to the disaster relief funds at the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama. All of the money donated to the Community Foundation Disaster Relief funds go directly towards the recovery process in the affected communities.

Green said, “At first I thought about donating the funds to the university, but after seeing the homes it was those people that I wanted to help.”

There are four county funds set up by the Community Foundation on their website, and one general fund. The funds have been in place since 2011 to ensure quick action after a disaster. After the March 19 tornadoes, the Community Foundation set up sub-funds to go directly to the communities hit by the storm.

Susan Williamson is the Vice President of Advancement and Communications at the Community Foundation. According to Williamson, the disaster funds have been in place since the 2011 tornadoes in preparation for any future disasters. The fund has had numerous donations since the devastation of the storm went viral.

“We have had donations from coast to coast,” said Williamson, “from Washington State to South Florida to Carolina. I like to call it generosity rising.”

Heather Lamey is the Director of Donor Grants and Standards for Excellence at the Community Foundation. According to Lamey, the Community Foundation helps with the long-term recovery of the communities.

“We step in during the long-term recovery, during the rebuilding process. As the months go by it is not so fresh on their minds and we are able to step in when resources run out,” says Lamey.

In a post on social media, Green shared her experience of donating the funds at the Community Foundation. There she and the ladies at the Community Foundation hugged and shared how the money would help the communities.

“The money we have raised can be used to fix roofs or to buy people new washer and dryers, and it has just made my day to know how we have helped so many people,” said Green in reference to those that purchased the shirts.

The Community Foundation assists the local area after other assistance has run out, working with contractors where insurance has not paid.

“After the 2011 tornadoes, we helped a lady that needed a ramp built at her home. We also had a school in DeKalb County that had been completely destroyed and we granted money for computers and new signs to the school. We pay contractors after the insurance claims have been exhausted – to meet the unmet needs,” said Lamey.

The long-term recovery efforts from the tornado can continue months after the storm. It can take time to determine all of the needs that insurance does not provide.

“Long-term recovery from 2011 took 18 months. It can be a year to a year and a half before we know the needs,” said Williamson.

Green’s donation to the Community Foundation has joined the numerous others that have come from across the nation. What began with an expression of support to her home of five years turned to a design of relief for her community.

“I have lived here my whole adult life. I always knew that it was home to me – it has a special place in my heart. Now after seeing how supportive everyone is of each other it has just made it so much more special,” Green said.

 

“We will rebuild our home”: JSU athletics facilities sustain storm damage

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Damage done to the basketball court inside the Pete Mathews Coliseum following the March 19 tornado (Matt Reynolds/JSU).

Daniel MayesSports Editor

“While the road to recovery may seem long, the people of Jacksonville will rebuild our home,” JSU Athletics Director Greg Seitz said in a statement.

The devastation of the March 19 tornadoes in Jacksonville was felt by the entire community as well as the university, as hundreds of buildings were damaged, including some of the Jacksonville State Athletics facilities.

Pete Mathews Coliseum, the home for JSU basketball and volleyball since its opening in 1974, received the worst of the damage.

The coliseum’s roof was damaged and even left completely bare in some spots, causing extensive flooding of the floors as water and debris found its way in.

The hardwood flooring of the court has already been completely removed and repair work has begun on the roof.

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Additional damage to the Coliseum. The outside doors (on the soccer field side of the building) were blown in and shattered (Matt Reynolds/JSU).

JSU softball’s University field also was majorly affected, as several light poles fell across fences and onto the playing surface, parts of the metal bleachers were left mangled and sitting in the infield, and debris littered the entire field.

The damage to University Field left the softball program without a home for the rest of the season, but, after the Gamecocks returned from their nine-game road trip that began just after the sorms, Oxford’s Choccolocco Park has played host to JSU’s home games and will continue to do so for the rest of the 2018 season.

The JSU Soccer Field and the tennis courts had downed fences and scattered debris.

The remaining athletics facilities all escaped damage other than a few close calls with downed trees in the vicinity.

JSU’s two current major construction projects, the renovations at Rudy Abbott Field and the new campus recreation and wellness center, received minimal damage.

Repairs have begun on all affected areas, and full recovery is expected.

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The softball field sustained heavy damage in the storms, including downed telephone poles and mangled bleachers (Matt Reynolds/JSU).

When the chainsaws stop

Katie Cline, Editor-in-Chief

Without the chainsaws roaring, the electrical trucks blocking the road and the safety vest-clad volunteers up the streets, Ninth Avenue almost looks like home again.

Almost.

If you drive down the avenue, you’ll find yourself enwalled on either side by piles of debris: tree branches and trunks, roofing, random scraps of metal and the like. Then you’ll notice that most of the houses have white or blue roofs, and you’ll remember that they’re wrapped in plastic tarps. Finally, you’ll look up at the hillside and see houses you never knew existed and bare patches of mountain where trees used to be.

And you remember that it’s still home—just not the home that you grew up in.

For three weeks, Jacksonville looked like a war zone: police and volunteers from every part of the state, the Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse stationed in church parking lots, organizations handing out bottled water and hot meals to people who had nothing—some of whom still have nothing. It was like a Red Cross commercial that you didn’t sign up to be in.

And, the truth is, we can say “#JSUStrong” all day, but the people affected by this storm—the students, professors, and staff who lost everything, the community members who lost homes and precious belongings—are not going to be strong every day. Losing everything hurts. It’s stressful. You don’t know where to start because everything needs to be done at once, and one company is telling you that it will cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix your house, and that’s money you don’t have, but your insurance company won’t get back to you, and your kids have to go back to school, and the university needs you to come back to work, and you still can’t find your wedding album from 37 years ago, and you’re afraid it’s ruined.

So now we’re “back” to work and school, but not really because departments are scattered across town and in different cities, and we’re being told new things every day, and nothing makes sense because we can’t get a straight answer from anyone, and we’re trying to find a rental house and move what’s left of our home of 23 years and get ready for graduation and make time for friends we may never see again—and it’s hard.

And it’s okay to be mad about it.

I’m mad about it.

I’m mad about everything: that the tornado hit my house, that I can’t just worry about my family and my cats and my dogs without being pestered and told that I can’t take my grades, that I can’t choose which of my two majors I sit with at graduation, that just being in the house I grew up in makes my lungs hurt because there’s so much mold.

I’m mad that the chainsaws stopped.

Because I thought when the chainsaws stopped, we’d be back to normal.

But the truth is, we’re not. And we won’t be for a long time.

Red Threads spreads Gamecock spirit with T-shirt sale

 

 

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SGA President Ranger Rumrill holds a check from Red Threads Apparel for $35,000 in front of Merrill Hall (photo by Grace Cockrell/JSU)

Katie Cline, Editor-in-Chief

 

Red Threads Apparel presented JSU with a check for $35,000 on April 5. In the memo line, they wrote “students.”

For owner and JSU alumnae Amado Ortiz, that’s what it was all about: the students.

“There were other organizations doing good things [after the tornado],” Ortiz said. “The Methodist and Baptist Churches had both been doing fantastic jobs getting the community things they needed, but we wanted to put some focus back on the students. When the students are in town, we feel it as a business, the restaurants feel it as a business. They’re a big part of the population, and we wanted to help them.”

After the March 19 tornado, Red Threads, whose storefront is located on the Jacksonville Public Square, started a t-shirt campaign to raise money for those students who may have lost school supplies, books or apartments in the storm.

The shirts read “Gamecock Strong,” a nod to a popular hashtag that surfaced on social media in the hours after the tornado. The “o” in “strong” is the university’s Gamecock. Underneath the image is “Rebuild Jacksonville.”

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Josh Robinson, Assistant Dean of Students for Fraternity and Sorority Life; Sebastian Mendez, Lead Interactive Designer for JSU Interactive and Sydney Jones, Social Media Specialist with JSU Office of Public Relations model Red Threads’ “Gamecock Strong” shirt (photo courtesy of Red Threads Apparel/Facebook).

The shirts were designed by Red Threads’ lead graphic designer, Anna Lee Weathers. Weathers, like all of Red Threads’ employees, is a JSU student or graduate. She graduated from JSU in 2007 with a degree in graphic design.

Red Threads’ campaign lasted from March 21 to April 1—just under two weeks—but the short campaign covered a big distance. Ortiz confirmed that “Gamecock Strong” shirts were shipped to 46 states. Only Maine, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island didn’t “go red.”

“We had sent some shirts to Hawaii before, especially after the band went and performed there, but what was interesting to us were the states that aren’t as populated: Wyoming, South Dakota, New Mexico and some of the others,” Ortiz said. “That’s what shocked us. I think one guy from Fargo, North Dakota is just a big North Dakota State fan, and he just saw the post where we tagged them, and he bought the shirt.”

But, more than money, Ortiz wanted to reach out to other alumni and let them know about the disaster, particularly in the early days.

“We just wanted to keep the momentum up and bring awareness to other alumni in the other areas,” Ortiz said. “Maybe they didn’t want to buy a shirt, but maybe they chose another avenue to help, whether they bought a different shirt or went to the Riley Green concert or whatever they wanted to do.”

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A map created by Red Threads shows the states that have ordered shirts as of April 5. Only Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware are white, indicating that no shirt was purchased from that state (from Red Threads’ Facebook page).

Even some customers who ordered a shirt won’t be picking it up.

“We had some people leave us a note on their order asking us to donate the shirt to a displaced student,” Ortiz explained. “They were just looking to donate and maybe already had all the shirts they wanted and wanted to help a student.”

As of this week, Ortiz said that about 95 per cent of the shirts have been shipped and received. SGA President Ranger Rumrill wore his at Monday’s Welcome Back event. Some shirts are still available in-store to purchase, and Ortiz said Red Threads plans to make another smaller donation after the shirts have been sold.

As to the original $35,000 donation, JSU has already begun putting it to use. On Tuesday, the JSU Dean of Students Office posted a form that students can fill out if they need financial assistance. Students merely fill out the form requesting aid, and a committee determines their need and allocates funds.

“I think it’s important for student retention,” Ortiz said. “If the students feel like they weren’t helped, then they may choose to transfer or to finish online. They want to feel like the university cares.”

Ortiz and his wife, Allison, run Red Threads Apparel and its parent company, O-Brand Marketing. Both graduated from JSU in 2007 where they studied communications.

Ortiz hopes the donation will help students who really need it and make this difficult time a little easier.

“I know Red Threads is going to get a lot of credit,” Ortiz said, “but the real recognition goes to everyone who bought a shirt. A $20 shirt is only a $20 shirt, but if a lot of people buy a $20 shirt, that’s a big impact.”

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