MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 marked the fifth anniversary of the Hickory Hill tornado that left death and destruction in its wake, and remade the face of a community.
But, while some businesses and people have moved out, others have moved in.
“A work in progress” is probably the most accurate way to describe Hickory Hill. Some blame the tornado for lost business and increasing crime rates, but others believe the storm created opportunity.
“Life has changed quite a bit,” said Charles Johnson, “actually the neighborhood is still in a rebuilding stage.”
Johnson is a Hickory Hill resident who works at Pacific Paper. As he went about the routine task of getting a haircut, memories of destruction from the 2008 tornado remained vivid.
“We’re still kind of in shock about it,” said Marticus Deshay, “you know a lot of business has been lost.”
Deshay works as a master barber in Hickory Hill.
Three people were killed on February 5, 2008; the roof was ripped off Hickory Ridge Mall.
Today, the roof is back and efforts to revitalize the mall continue, but it’s slow going.
“What’s the word I can use,” said Deshay, “it is dead.”
But things are looking up.
“You see signs of progress,” said Johnson, “because about three years ago, there wasn’t anything here.”
Perhaps an unintended benefit of the tornado is the growth of Hickory Hill’s Hispanic population, up 700 percent in the last few years.
“I was shocked,” said Mauricio Calvo, who runs Latino Memphis, located in the heart of Hickory Hill. He said Hispanic businesses are growing everywhere, along with churches and schools.
“I think if the Hispanic community was not in Hickory Hill the problems would be bigger, and worse,” Calvo told abc24.com.
As rebuilding continues, what’s the weather prognosis for 2013?
“We’ve had so much rain in January,” said ABC 24 Meteorologist Mark Walden, “almost ten inches, double what we typically see. That only increases the opportunity for more storms.”
And that is something they do not need in Hickory Hill.
“Economically it was pretty devastating,” Johnson said.
He also believes most of Hickory Hill’s businesses have moved further east, down Winchester. Johnson thinks the community is bouncing back, but it will take a lot more time.