RIEGELWOOD -- It's been almost a year since a deadly tornado ripped through the town of Riegelwood in Columbus County. Those who survived are working to rebuild their lives. Not only are they working to rebuild their lives, but also rebuild their homes. Tornado survivor LJ Daniels said, "My trailer started shaking and I started hearing, like trains and horns and I knew it wasn't anything normal... So I just went into the closet and waited for it to leave." Daniels is lucky to have survived. Eight of his neighbors did not. "When I went outside people were dead and everything was messed up," he said. Daniels walked away with his life but faced thousands of dollars in damage to his home, something he says the state paid to repair. "They replaced the building gave us a new building. The whole fence was gone, it was gone for a while but they finally redid it. They gave us new porches and stuff where the tornado took them," Daniels said. The damage to his home was repaired but some of his personal belongings that got destroyed in the storm were never replaced. "Basically personal stuff, grills, equipment for a studio… They said that was luxury. They couldn't reimburse for luxury stuff," Daniels said. "I was just happy I'm living and the tornado didn't take me because I can buy another one." Over the past year Daniels has watched demolished homes on his street get hauled away and new homes built in their place. "The street hasn't changed. A couple houses got built up, some people left, but it's pretty much the same, just quieter," Daniels said. Daniels says he plans to stay in the area but hopes emergency officials do something to better warn people if there is a next time. "It would be good to have a warning system for people who didn't know it was coming. The only warning system you got is when it's here." One organization raised almost $100,000 for tornado victims. The group hopes to use that money for exactly what Daniels mentioned: a county-wide emergency alert system. Many other non-profits also raised money for victims. The Secretary of State's office says it's nearly impossible to track exactly how much money was raised for victims because much of the money was donated to churches, which are not required to send in records of financial contributions. The Red Cross donated $50,000 to Riegelwood victims. The governor's office is currently looking into how much money came from the state.
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