'Our subdivision had been hit dead on:’ Putnam County, TN tornado survivor shares story

WAAY 31 talked to people who live near the area an EF-4 tornado touched down and killed 18 victims.

Posted: Mar 5, 2020 3:25 PM
Updated: Mar 5, 2020 9:39 PM

Right now, WAAY 31 crews are on the ground in the hardest hit areas of Tennessee.

In Putnam County, search and rescue crews spent hours going through debris Thursday morning.

WAAY 31 was there talking to people who live near the area an EF-4 tornado touched down and killed 18 victims.

In Echo Valley Estates, there are homes reduced to rubble, but amazingly, no one died in this subdivision.

Now, it's survivor’s guilt many people are trying to deal with.

"There are at least six homes up here and as you can see, they are gone. There is nothing here,” said Kimberly Frick-Welker, who lives in the area.

WAAY 31 met up with Frick-Welker as she was searching for family photos lost in the tornado. She's trying to find those irreplaceable memories for her neighbors, too.

"Toddler beds, little bicycles, little baby pajamas, just a lot of personal items that as a mother and grandmother, I would want to have,” she said.

As she showed us around her subdivision, she described how her house shook when the tornado hit.

"We thought we were okay. I'm at the end of the road in the cul-de-sac. Lots of debris, but we thought everyone was okay. We hollered, ‘Is everyone okay?’ Then, we heard crying and whaling, and then, we realized the top part of our subdivision had been hit dead on by the tornado," said Frick-Welker.

She told us stories of how her neighbors survived and started pulling people from the rubble. But she can't shake the sense of survivor’s guilt, knowing other subdivisions lost whole families.

"Yeah, I think a lot of people on these streets that were hit are dealing with that as well," she said.

Frick-Welker said she's basically been on autopilot the last few days. She said journaling and taking photos of what it's like in the hardest hit area has been therapeutic for her, too.

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