Small Towns Struggle After Storms' Destruction Three days after tornadoes hit Alabama, people are trying to cope. While the damage and destruction in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham have received plenty of attention, many of the state's smaller communities, also blitzed by tornadoes, have their own challenges. NPR's Kathy Lohr reports.
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Small Towns Struggle After Storms' Destruction

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Small Towns Struggle After Storms' Destruction

Small Towns Struggle After Storms' Destruction

Small Towns Struggle After Storms' Destruction

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A damaged truck in a tornado-ravaged area near Rainsville, Ala. Mark Almond/AP hide caption

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Mark Almond/AP

A damaged truck in a tornado-ravaged area near Rainsville, Ala.

Mark Almond/AP

It's been three days since tornadoes ravaged the South, killing more than 300 people. In some areas not much has changed; there's no power, no water, no gas. People are struggling to get on with their day-to-day lives.

In northeast Alabama, parts of Tennessee and the northwest corner of Georgia, people are sitting in long lines waiting to buy gas.

Nicholas Goodridge was thrilled that this service station in Rising Fawn, Ga., just across the Alabama border, was open.

"We're filling up my car and two of our gas cans, and my granddad is filling up two of his gas cans and there's a $100 limit," he says. "We don't have power and we've been running a generator for several days – actually, two days.

There was still no power in this area Friday, but the station was using a generator to operate the pumps. In fact, much of the power in northeastern Alabama has not been restored, but people here are making do.

In DeKalb County near Rainsville, splintered tree stumps and shattered buildings line state Highway 35. The tornado was so powerful it killed 25 people having supper in a Huddle House restaurant. There's little left of the place. Officials say it may take a few more days or up to a week restore power in some remote areas.

The Wal-Mart parking lot is one of the few places that was bustling. Tip Pack, with the Fort Payne police, is directing traffic. "Are you needing fuel?" he asked one driver. "No, I'm trying to get my medicine," the man responded. "Ok, alright. You're probably better off to go right down through there and just find you somewhere to park," Pack instructed.

"They just started pumping fuel and stuff today, and every city and town around us is without power also, so it's bad everywhere," Pack said.

A line of cars and trucks snaked through the parking lot, growing longer throughout the day as people found out the store and the pumps were open.

Yvonne Mason, a fifth-grade teacher at Fort Payne Middle School, was trying to pick up a few groceries — something that didn't need to be refrigerated. She's still shaken because so many people, at least 32, were confirmed dead in this single rural county.

"It bothers me at night," she says. I wake up and I think about the loss of life, but the people in the area are good people — strong people."

"If you noticed, people are calm and they're courteous and we're helping each other and we'll get through it. It's just a matter of taking one day at a time," she says. "Deal with this day, and then tomorrow comes, and we'll deal with it."

Everyone wants to see power restored. They'd like to take a hot shower and get a home-cooked meal. But so many say they can't complain; they got away with their lives.