WAVERLY, Va. -- Dozens of volunteers filled a Virginia town devastated by a deadly tornado Wednesday afternoon. More than 50 people showed up with supplies and ready to work at Waverly’s relief headquarters, a former grocery store, Friday morning. Officials said nearly 60 structures were damaged as an EF-1 tornado blew through the town, overturning cars and ripping homes off their foundations.
Operation Blessing Deputy Director Raymond McGregor lead one of several volunteer teams in the town during what was being called the first day of clean-up Friday.
While Operation Blessing crews are sent to devastated areas across the world, McGregor said, “we are making sure we take care of home. We have been contacting residents who need a tarp and getting permission and sending crews out. We have had luck with a lot of good volunteers already.”
Town Relief Organizer Joe Poe said he received 350 calls from people across the country wanting to come to Waverly to help. Groups from as far away as Texas and Ohio were planning trips to aid in relief efforts.
"It's humbling and overwhelming," Poe said. "At the same time, like I said yesterday, we didn't call anybody. Everybody called us looking to come to us and that speaks volumes."
Volunteers started their work on homes that weren’t destroyed and are still livable. About 20 airmen and women from Langley Air Force base also arrived in the area on their own accord. The clean-up is expected to take weeks and even months.
"We are just trying to do what we can one step at a time," McGregor said.
The tornado was responsible for three deaths in Waverly. Two-year-old Ian Lewis, 26-year-old Devine J. Stringfield and 50-year-old Larry D. Turner died after they were thrown from their mobile home on Mayfield Avenue. The toddler’s mother, Trenicka Stringfield, was also in the trailer at the time. She survived the storm.