Everyone from Gov. Kay Ivey to the 1,000 volunteers who quickly mobilized to help have been in awe not only of the power of nature, as seen in Saturday’s tornado that ravaged the city’s west side Saturday afternoon, but of Wetumpka’s recuperative spirit.
Almost immediately, neighbors were helping neighbors dig out and take stock of what had been saved and what had been lost. Both were considerable.
The estimated high-end EF2 tornado, with winds of about 130 mph, destroyed the landmark First Presbyterian Church and significantly damaged the nearby First Baptist Church, 30 homes and 15 commercial structures. It felled trees and smashed five police cars, as well as the police station itself.
But the community shook off the destruction and started helping each other. Help poured in. The city, led by Mayor Jerry Willis, had a well-organized plan to begin cleanup and recovery.
By Monday afternoon, a few streets were left to be cleared but they were expected to be reopened Tuesday after traffic lights were hung. Power had been restored to the west side of the Coosa River and the Bibb Graves Bridge was deemed safe for passage. A curfew was lifted and Wetumpka City Schools were back in session Tuesday.
When life returns to normal, it may not be the normal Wetumpka has experienced for so long. Willis wants it to be even better.
Residents should be patient while the city is still working out details of the rebuilding and seeking federal disaster funds. Nobody wants the restoration of Wetumpka’s charming way of life to return quicker than Willis and the city government. If that effort is anywhere near as good as the initial response, it will be something to behold.