Newnan tornado damage surveys continue as local officials seek federal aid

COWETA COUNTY, Ga. — When Mattie Faison heard the sirens late Thursday, she got dressed, headed into a back room, sat in her recliner and prayed.

“How long did I stay in that room? Oh, I stayed in that room until day. I just didn’t come out,” the 93-year-old said.

Ms. Mattie, as she’s affectionately called in Newnan, came out of that room unscathed Friday morning.

“I feel good considering what done happened,” Faison said referring to the huge tree that barely missed her praying spot. “When I looked out and saw that big ‘ole tree, I said, ‘Well, thank you Jesus for saving me.’”

[Convoy of Care: Help victims of Coweta County tornado]

Ms. Mattie is among the thousands recovering from tornados that ripped through West Georgia last week, the home she’s lived in for 50 years is now heavily damaged.

Coweta County officials are awaiting word on whether they’ve reached a $16 million threshold for federal aid. That damage would be tied to public, uninsured property that assessors continued surveying Tuesday.

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Emergency calls for the area were initially handled by neighboring counties, as Coweta’s 911 center sustained its own damage. At one point, officials said operators took handwritten notes to filter emergency help.

There’s still no estimate for some phone and Internet restoration days later.

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A community learning center and the county’s Chamber of Commerce are now set up with WiFi hotspots as NuLink, the area’s main provider, works to get service back to its customers. On Monday night, the company indicated it had no estimate for when it would be able to restore service to all of its customers.

Alisa Stegall lives next door to Ms. Mattie, and says she and her mother were fortunate enough to have power restored within 24 hours. Other neighbors are still waiting.

“I have a lot of faith so I just stay prayed up,” said Stegall, praising volunteers like the group from Samaritan’s Purse that provided cleanup services for the neighborhood Tuesday.

Allison Hammond watched as Ms. Mattie headed back into the house. She was on the receiving end of the first call from the elderly woman, who she says helped raise her. Now she’s making sure Ms. Mattie has everything she needs.

“You would’ve thought the virus would’ve broken us up in this community, but it’s just made us stronger,” Hammond said.

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