One year later: Volunteers help clear debris from tornado-hit hillside in Elon

ELON, Va. (WDBJ7)-- We are approaching the one year mark since an EF-3 tornado ripped through several of our hometowns.

But for volunteers like Christopher Hudson, from Halifax County, the view of the tornado-hit neighborhoods is still a lot to take in.

"How did one thing do that much damage to an area in as little time as it did," said Hudson.

Hudson stood next to a hillside in Elon, overlooking Nottaway Drive, where you can still make out the tornado's path of destruction. The same debris, trees and weeds that were tangled on the hillside, spilling into a creek-bed, are still present today.

"It's just a constant reminder of the destruction that happened," said Colan Davis, whose home was damaged in the tornado.

Saturday more than 40 volunteers took to the thick terrain with chainsaws in hand to remove that reminder.

Members of 4-H in both Halifax County and Amherst County, Ruritan Club members, Amherst County Habitat for Humanity and neighbors in Elon were all there to help.

"That's part of healing," said Debbie Habel, construction manager for the Amherst Disaster Recovery Group. "Clean-up is part of healing."

Habel said even more than healing, the clean-up efforts address an environmental concern.

"There have been car parts, sheds, mattresses, it was just all sitting there, decaying," Habel said, explaining what debris was found in the creek-bed.

Mud, rain and high winds have made the work difficult in week's past, but the group made a lot of progress on Saturday.

The volunteers said they were working to send a message to the homeowners who are still slowly rebuilding and moving back into the neighborhood.

"To know that somebody out there is still helping and caring for them even though it was so long ago," said Hudson.

It's a sight that survivors, like Kelly Urbani, welcome.

"This is a good thing. This is hope. This is hope rising up out of the rubble," said Urbani. "It's been a tough year. But we have become Amherst strong, Elon strong and we are coming back stronger than we were before."

ADRG will be planning future work-days on the hillside. For more information you can email: volunteeradrg@gmail.com.