WAVERLY, Va. (WRIC) — The clean up process is underway in Waverly after a deadly tornado left a path of destruction in its wake.
8News spoke with resident and local funeral director James Gay, who says he’s shocked that his hometown looks like a war zone. Gay says when one person hurts here in the community, everyone feels the pain and he says he’s working to help the victims’ family.
“I’m going to to do whatever I can to help them get through this because as devastating as it is, and nobody plans for this to happen,” Gay said. “When it happens, we just got to reach out to help one another.”
Local firefighters told 8News that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, The National Guard and more than 70 volunteers are cleaning up Friday. They met at Fresh Price Grocery this morning with water, food and other supplies. Today, they’ll clean up debris and put tarps over what’s left of damaged homes.
Volunteers say the community is rallying together to help rebuild the town and restore hope.
“When you see damage of this nature in this magnitude it’s not a one day thing,” said William Ricks, who is a volunteer with American Legion Post 191. “When you ride down 460 behind Empowerment Temple Church, you honestly see the debris so that has to be cleaned up and everywhere else has to be cleaned up.”
The National Weather Service confirmed that the storm was a strong, EF-1 tornado that came through Waverly on Wednesday evening. An EF-1 tornado has wind speeds 86 to 110 mph.
The study concluded the tornado began a few miles south-southwest of Waverly. The tornado moved fast through the Town of Waverly and ended about five miles north-northeast of Waverly. Max winds reached speeds of 100 to 110 mph.
Numerous trees were downed, two mobile homes were destroyed and several homes and businesses were damaged.
Governor Terry McAuliffe traveled to Waverly Thursday to get a look at the damage himself and meet with the victims. He estimated the damage to be at least $11 million.
“We are lucky this did not happen in the middle of the night… I think it’s important to come down and see what actually is needed to make sure we can get the state and federal resources in here as fast as possible,” the governor said.
Virginia State Police confirmed that 26-year-old Devine Stringfield, 50-year-old Larry Turner and a 2-year-old boy, Ivan Lewis, were killed in Waverly during the storm.
McAuliffe said the family of the three people killed would need a lot of help.
“It’s a very, very tough situation. I would just ask all Virginians and folks who may be watching us that they need help, so we’re going to stand up and accept some donations. The family doesn’t have the money to bury their child. I mean it’s very sad. They have no money for clothes. They have nothing. They lost everything. Whatever cash they had went off in the wind,” he said.