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With a few minutes, an EF-1 tornado with winds in excess of 100 to 110 mph ripped through the sleepy little town in southeast Virginia, destroying property and permanently changing the lives of many of its residents.
In less than ten minutes, a horrific funnel cloud — which observers said was as wide as three football fields — ripped a swath of destruction nine miles long, tearing countless trees from their roots, ripping the roofs off local businesses, and flipping over and tossing at least two mobile homes as if they were discarded aluminum soda pop cans.
By the time the tornado moved on, two men and a two-year-old boy were dead, at least eight people were injured, and the tiny town of 2,300 people was left devastated, according to to local news reports.
Local Forklift to the Rescue
Like many of the people living and working in southeastern Virginia, Sonja Alvis watched reports of the tragedy as they were reported on local television stations. But unlike most people, Alvis — operations manager of Richmond-based Virginia Forklift — decided to take action.
Without waiting to be asked for help by local disaster response officials, the American Red Cross, or anybody else for that matter, Alvis just knew she had to do something to help.
Within hours of the disaster — while the skies overhead were still a steely gray and drops of rain were still falling on the disaster zone — one of Virginia Forklift’s 15,500 lb. capacity Hyundai forklifts was en route to Waverly to help out with rescue and relief efforts.
Honored by Town Officials
Now, more than a month after the disaster, town officials in Waverly are honoring the forklift dealer with a citation for “outstanding performance and ongoing contributions” for its quick response.
Virginia Forklifts has been serving its community since 1978. But thanks to company’s selfless actions, the business was able to take its concept of service to an entirely new level.
As for Alvis, she said it was all in the spirit of helping people out when they need it the most.
“A natural disaster is not a time to look for a profit but to just do the right thing and help your neighbor,” she told Forklift Action News.
A Community Recovers
Killed in the storm were Devine Stringfield, 26; Larry Turner, 50; and Ian Lewis, 2, according to local fire officials. All three were in their mobile home when it was destroyed by the tornado’s powerful winds.
The same storm was believed to have killed another person in nearby Appomattox, Virginia.
In the days after the disaster, the people of Waverly buried their dead. They cleaned up the downed power lines, uprooted trees, and other debris the storm left behind. And they took the essential steps necessary to recover and heal from such a horrible natural disaster.
And while it will take a long time for the scars left behind by the storm to heal, thanks to the actions of Virginia Forklift, the recovery will be a just little bit faster and, perhaps, a little bit kinder.