Tennessee governor tours tornado-damaged Covington, vows to work with locals in recovery

Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 7:01 PM CDT
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COVINGTON, Tenn. (WMC) - It’s been nearly a month since a tornado ripped through Tipton County. Friday, Governor Bill Lee saw the damage in person for the first time.

Lee toured the H.T. Hackney Company in Covington, which sustained serious damage but was also one of the lucky businesses able to continue operating despite that.

Governor Lee held a roundtable discussion with county and city leaders at the wholesale grocery distributor facility.

Over 500 homes were destroyed in Tipton County by the tornado, and countless other businesses were not able to reopen, leaving a number of people not only having to clean up the damage at their homes but also trying to find work.

Governor Lee said the Department of Labor is working with local officials to try to coordinate with companies to help people who were suddenly out of work due to the storm.

“So we’re pretty encouraged about the prospects for those that lost their jobs at one company but are finding jobs because of the economic activity that is happening in the community. There are jobs to be had,” said Lee.

During the governor’s visit, city and county officials expressed their concerns surrounding education.

About 1,300 students and staff were displaced when the tornado demolished Crestview Elementary and Middle Schools.

They are currently waiting on two temporary structures to be completed so students can return to school.

The Boys and Girls Club opened its doors for tutoring in the meantime.

City officials say it will take at least another two years for the rebuild the demolished schools.

Stephanie Griggs has two children who attended Crestview Elementary and says she’s worried about safety inside the tents, especially if another storm passes through.

She also says she’s disappointed with the response from local government, specifically referring to Gov. Lee.

”We need more support from our local government, having them come in and actually see what’s going on and be involved actually with the community,” said Griggs. 

Lee says criticism by some of the locals is unwarranted.

“It was an immediate response from the state,” he said.

The Governor says TEMA and the Department of Education were on the ground shortly after the tornado.

Governor Lee scheduled a visit to Covington days after the storm but canceled it due to weather.

“So the state has been here, but I think what has been the most encouraging is what the local community has done,” said Lee.

Griggs says she was also disappointed that Crestview students were required to take the TCAP this week.

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