"We had 785 people sign up early Saturday morning," said Jody Herrington, the U.S. Disaster Relief coordinator for Virginia-based Operation Blessing International. "The response was just terrific!"
Men, women and children were directed to the areas of the most concentrated devastation. The "Vols" brought chain saws, bobcats, backhoes and even bull doziers to the clean up areas.
In addition to the heavy clean-up work, church groups and individual volunteers sifted through the remains of destroyed and half-destroyed houses and garages, looking for items of sentimental value such as photographs and glassware to return to the owners.
At one Akersville road home, teenagers and younger children chipped mortar off concrete blocks and stacked them neatly so that the foundation of a completely demolished frame home could be rebuilt using the recycled masonry materials.
Volunteers showed up to prepare warm meals and sandwiches for other volunteers. The weather cooperated for the relief effort, providing comfortable temperatures under partly cloudy skies.
State DOT and National Guard heavy equipment continued to work at the debris removal early this week, and hundreds of truck loads of debris have already been taken to a temporary dump location on Carter Branch at the old rock crusher site.
But hundreds more truck loads of debris and rubble still need to be transported.
The National Guard Unit and its heavy equipmentsent here for the past ten days are scheduled to leave Macon County at the end of this week, leaving much of the debris to be cleared by private contractors, state DOT crews and the county.
"FEMA will pay for 75-percent for what we do with local resources, but the twenty-five percent local match could break the county," said County Mayor Shelvy Linville this Tuesday. He expressed his dismay that federal assistance is moving out so quickly, and moving so slowly in bringing in FEMA manufactured homes, which may not be available for another month.
The growing local frustration with the federal response is eerily familiar to those who remember how long it took (and is still taking) to get aid to those left homeless by Hurricane Kartina.
About 100 Macon County families are in need of rental or temporary housing two weeks after the storm. Many remain in the homes of friends or relatives.
Thousands of FEMA trailers and campers are stored in Hope, Arkansas, but reported problems with high levels of formaldehyde in already distributed housing is causing delays in moving FEMA housing into tornado stricken areas like Macon County.
Five other Tennessee counties have been declared "Disaster Areas" and residents there should be eligible for the temporary housing.
There is no shortage of places to put the FEMA mobile homes; city and county officials have identified many places with access to city water and sewer to set up the housing. But FEMA won't release the trailers until they are tested for dangerous levels of the suspected carcinogen, formaldehyde, which has been found in as many as one-third of the trailers used by Katrina victims.
The county mayor was scheduled to meet with FEMA and TEMA officials and review the debris removal situation at mid-day Tuesday. The housing situation will also be addressed, but there is now no guarantee from the federal agency that they will come at all.
DEBRIS MANAGEMENT guidelines established by FEMA state with bureaucratic efficiency that "eligible debris removal activities include Debris removal from public right-of-way to allow safe passage of emergency vehicles; and Debris removal from public property to eliminate health and safety hazards."
Ineligible Debris removal activities include "Removal of debris, such as tree limbs and trunks, from an applicant's unimproved property or undeveloped land."
Debris removal from private property is generally not eligible for public assistance grant funding.
To read the FEMA debris management guidelines in full, please go to <http://www.fema.gov/>www.fema.gov and look for Debris Management-Resources for Debris Removal and Demolition Operations.