Rosalie, Dade County's neighbor on the Alabama side of Sand Mountain, is a mess from the tornado that ripped through its main drag last week, but things are improving there rapidly thanks to the old-fashioned neighborliness of this area.
"What we've been trying to do since the storm came through Wednesday morning is
get people covered, where they're in the dry, get them covered, get them what they need food-wise and supply-wise," said Harry Laney of the Rosalie Rescue Squad. "Donations have been coming in from all over the place." (Laney is pictured at right with stacks of donated water and soft drinks.)
Over a hundred volunteers converged on the tiny town Saturday. Laney said rescue squads and firefighters from Guntersville, Collinsville, Ider, Scottsboro, Geraldine, Stevenson, Dutton--he stopped listing them for fear he would leave some out--had shown up, as well as scores of unaffiliated volunteers. "We've had bunches of just local people who weren't involved coming in and wanting to help," said Laney. "When they came in we take a word order, hand it to a group and say, 'This is where we need you.'"
The emphasis on Saturday was getting roofs tarped, yards cleared and houses secured before the expected heavy rains of Sunday set in, said Laney. "We're trying to get it to the point where, as our volunteer base starts getting smaller, then we can have the immediate needs taken care of, the short-term livability until they get insurance from adjusters and get something done to permanently fix their houses," he said.
Laney was speaking to The Dade Planet in the parking lot of the Rosalie Rescue Squad headquarters late Saturday afternoon as a few cold raindrops began falling on the asphalt. The squad moved into this rented storefront on Highway 71 just two months ago, the fire hall a couple blocks away having gotten too crowded. It was a fortuitous move, as it turned out, because the new HQ is smack in the middle of the tornado-ravaged zone but was not itself damaged.
Now chainsaws buzzed next door and earth-moving equipment droned across the street while the rescue squad was once again squeezed into too small a space--this time by the mountains of food, beverages, paper towels, tarps and other supplies sent in by donors. Things were so tight inside that volunteer coordinator Nadra Lambert was signing in arriving helpers under a makeshift tent in the parking lot.
On the other side of the highway, all that remained of the Rosalie Plaza shopping area was rubble. Laney said that, of the seven or eight businesses in the plaza, only three had been currently occupied, a grocery store, a video store and an office furniture place. "It just completely flattened everything over there," he said.
Laney also mentioned the daycare center that was destroyed near 71's State Road 117 intersection, with the nearby trailer where three young adults were killed on Wednesday. The identities of those victims have been released. The dead are Justin Wright, 26, his sister, April Wright, 22, and his girlfriend, Jessica Fleming, 21.
Laney, a retired ambulance driver, said another member of the Wright family had been injured in the mobile home, but he knew of no other injuries in the area.
Structural damage, on the other hand, was rife. "There's probably around 20 or 30 houses that have damage, some total, some just roof damage, some structural damage where they'll probably have to be torn down and rebuilt," Laney estimated. He said Red Cross and the Salvation Army had been helping with the suddenly homeless. "As far as I know, everybody that's displaced has got a place to stay," said Laney.
Trees were lying on their sides all over and in one yard a toilet stood white and alone on a littered lawn. A mattress lay collecting raindrops in another yard. But by far the most dramatic structural blow to the Rosalie community was to its church buildings.
Small towns are often described as "three churches and a gas station." If Rosalie fell into that category before, it is now short the three churches: Rosalie Baptist Church was
badly damaged by the storm, Macklin Baptist was ravaged far worse, and Rosalie Church of God is pretty much gone. "There's enough there where you can tell where the entrance was to it, and basically that's it," said Lane
A badly damaged portion of Rosalie Baptist
Macklin Baptist main building; the fellowship hall was worse.
The Church of God is, basically, not there. Only the entrance remains.
Rosalie Church of God was on a side street that angles behind Rosalie Baptist and winds back to Highway 71. There was in fact so little left of it that it was not identifiable as a church, and The Planet was obliged to ask a homeowner to point it out from where he was clearing rubble from his own yard across the street.
"I just moved here," said the man. But he shrugged off the bad luck. "Thank God that my wife and boys and my dogs, everybody's alive," he said.
From Rosalie, the tornado traveled down SR 117 toward Ider, tearing up chickenhouses and battering homes on its way.
Dade County was mercifully spared for the most part by the tornado's depredations, but not in toto: A Dade Planet reader on Sunday pointed out that the KOA campground in the north end of the county had sustained considerable damage during Wednesday's high winds when a tree crashed into one of KOA's "Kamping Kabins." A picture is below.
Readers wishing to donate food and supplies to the Rosalie relief effort may deliver them to the Rosalie Rescue Squad HQ on Highway 71. But Harry Laney says there's no room for clothing there, so please take donations of that nature to the Salvation Army store in Scottsboro and specify they're for the Rosalie disaster.