The City of Louisville is still recovering from a series of tornadoes that struck the town one year ago today. According to officials, the storm claimed 10 lives, damaged nearly 700 structures and destroyed another 400 homes. Many of those homes have been rebuilt, and the past year's recovery efforts have left many feeling optimistic about the city's future.
On April 28th, 2014, more than 20 tornadoes touched down across the state, damaging hundreds of structures and killing 14 people. Nowhere was the devastation more obvious than in the Winston County city of Louisville. Diane McCulloch-Hodges' house was destroyed in the storm. One year later, a newly rebuilt house sits on the property her family has owned since she was a child. She says the storm has given her a new start.
"Nothing is the same here as what it was before," says Muculloch-Hodges. "The ground has changed. The trees are all gone except those three trees out there. It's not the old home-place anymore; it's a new start. You never get to start over; if you live long enough."
Next door, brick layers are putting the final touches on the exterior of a newly rebuilt house also destroyed in the tornado. Don Chancellor supervises his crew as they lay-down new flooring.
"It's coming back slowly; looking good ever since this time last year," Chancellor says. "We've worked on at least seven or eight since the storm. We built four new ones and three that we remodeled.
This kind of rebuilding has been common across Louisville. Will Hill is the Mayor.
"We did lose some families due to circumstances, but I am certainly optimistic that we can get back on our feet," says Hill. "Hopefully with thriving industries here in Winston County, I want us to be a regional hub and not just serving other communities around us."
Some rebuilding has been slow. The Winston County Medical Center was one of the buildings hardest hit in the storm A temporary facility consisting of a trailer and tents were setup south of town. Doctor Michael Ard has been practicing medicine at the temporary facility.
"It's been different," Ard says. "It's a state of flux. It's a state of change since the tornado hit. Trying to take care of people in a tent is constantly something in process of being done different, being rebuilt or being reconstructed or different."
In only the past few weeks has a more permanent, transitional structure been built.
"This is radiology. We do respiratory in here. . ."
Paul Black is the CEO of the Medical Center. While touring the facility, he says the transitional hospital brings back a number of services that have been missing for the past year.
"[We're] basically back at providing the same services as we were providing before the tornado," Black says. "We were able to get everything back up and operational and it gives us more normalcy. We're not quite at the same levels of utilization we were at before but it is the same basic services that we did before."
On Eiland Avenue, a neighborhood just east of the temporary medical center, nearly half of the lots on the street are abandoned. Empty concrete foundations sit where houses once stood. Willie D. Macon is one of the residents that rebuilt on Eiland Avenue.
"Yeah, a lot of them moved away," Macon says. "They said they wasn't going to come back, and a lot of them moved away. It affect them pretty good, sure did. It affect them pretty good. All of my neighbors, they gone. Some of them bought somewhere else and it really affect them really bad."
Despite some residents leaving the city, Mayor Will Hill says he remains optimistic Louisville will continue to grow.
"The scars of the tornado are going to be here for a long time," says Hill. "Some of the challenges that face us coming up are what you see on the peripheral are the undeveloped property or property that's been left unattended. Progress is contagious, and its little things go a long way. When someone is building, that gives inspiration to others.
Residents are set to hold a memorial service honoring those who lost their lives during the storm today at 4pm in the town's Memorial Park Cemetery.