Melissa Harris graduated from Mount Whitney High School. Her father still lives in Visalia. When Friday's storm hit Tennessee, she and her family took cover at a friend's house. The tornado ripped through her home and her family is now relying on organizations like the Red Cross to get by.
Harris is shocked a tornado tore up her Tennessee home. "It's still very overwhelming, people ask what we need and at that point, I'm like we need everything," said Harris.
On Monday the family recorded the debris strewn across their yard and described the destruction to Action News by phone. Harris said, "There's hundreds of trees down and roofs have gone or a tree has fallen on a car but ours and one or two others are the ones that are completely gone."
Jane Fortune with the Central Valley Red Cross says the local branch has not deployed anyone to the area but workers in the South and Midwest are already providing support. Fortune says donations coming into local Red Cross offices for tornado victims have been slow. She said, "It's a tough time. It's a very tough economy but I think people are very generous in this community and they give what they can."
Dirt and a few concrete blocks are all that's left where Harris and her family once lived. The tornado uprooted the family's home before flinging it across their lawn. "Everything was everywhere, we found our mattress between a mile and two miles up in a tree and our couch was about a mile away," said Harris.
Harris talked to Action News by phone about finding rescue crews in her Tennessee neighborhood soon after the storm. She said, "They asked us our names and starting radioing everybody and saying, we have survivors and told us they were just looking for our bodies."
The family is grateful to be alive but says they don't have insurance to pay for the damage. Instead they're focusing their efforts on picking through the rubble. Rarely do they find pieces of their past intact.
On Sunday her father Jerry Luczenczyn listened in on our call. He said, "They have a smaller house but it's totally gone, flattened and scattered. Their whole lives are scattered." He and his neighbor Denise Day are hoping the public will step up and help raise money for the family.
If you would like to help the Harris family, you can make a donation in their name to New Hope Valley Church.
New Hope Valley Church
5702 W Caldwell Ave
Visalia, CA 93277
Make checks out to the Harris Family